Friday 23 March 2018

Former governor of Mountjoy apologises to family of Gary Douch

The former governor of Mountjoy Prison has apologised to the family of Gary Douch who was beaten to death in the prison.

Speaking earlier today on RTE's Morning Ireland, John Lonergan, who was governor of the jail at the time, apologised to the family of Gary Douch and agreed with the report’s main finding that his death was avoidable.

He also apologised to Gary Douch’s killer Stephen Egan, who was subsequently convicted of manslaughter with diminished responsibility.

The two men were in a holding cell along with six other prisoners when Stephen Egan beat Gary Douch to death in August 2006.

“It was and should have been avoidable,” Mr Lonergan said, before adding that it was as a “direct result of overcrowding”.

Mr Lonergan said he previously rejected requests to transfer Stephen Egan to Mountjoy Priosn.

Mr Lonergan said he believed Mountjoy couldn’t manage Stephen Egan’s psychiatric condition and, given his previous history in Mountjoy, he rejected several requests for Egan’s transfer from Cloverhill to his prison. Prior to this, Egan was transferred from the Central Mental Hospital to Cloverhill.

Mr Lonergan told interviewer Cathal MacCoille the decision to accept Egan back into Mountjoy was taken on Saturday, July 29th, when he was on annual leave. His direct deputy at the prison was also away.

A medical file on Mr Egan was given to the medical section upon the prisoner’s arrival in Mountjoy – but Mr Lonergan said it appeared this file wasn’t processed and that was a failing of the sytem.

Speaking about the issue of overcrowding, Mr Lonergan said the scene in the prison nearly every night was of “prison officers running around with mattresses under their elbows”.

"I certainly regret one thing and that was, at the end of my time in Mountjoy, that I did not refuse to take prisoners when the prison became overcrowded.

"It would have been illegal.... but tt was something that I should have done and something that I failed to do.

“It shouldn’t take a tragedy like death of Gary Douch to bring about reforms that I was looking for since 1984.”

An annual report, highlighting the conditions in Mountjoy prison, was compiled every year and given to the government, Mr Lonergan said.

When asked if he had ever threatened to resign over the poor conditions, Mr Lonergan said he didn’t but believed it would not have made any difference.

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