Tuesday 15 October 2019

Murderer found with blades and improvised knife in cell 'claims they were planted because he couldn't reach the shelf'

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Tim Healy

A murderer found with an improvised knife under his prison cell mattress has failed in a High Court challenge to his jail disciplinary hearing.

Gerald Dunne (43), Rafters Avenue, Drimnagh, Dublin, was jailed for murder in 2001 after stabbing a man during a row which began over the use of a public phone box.

He stabbed Liam Thompson (20) of Woodlawn Park Grove, Firhouse, Tallaght, on January 27, 1999, at Dolphin's Road, Rialto, Dublin.

In a search of his Wheatfield Prison cell on November 7, 2017, officers found the improvised knife wrapped in tissue paper under his mattress. They also found an almost full bag of razor blades on a shelf in the cell.

Dunne claimed the items had been "planted" as others had access to his open cell while he was doing prison work.  He also claimed he did not use the shelf on which the blades were found and he could not reach the shelf.   

The prison authorities said the only shelf was four feet high.

An internal disciplinary process under Prison Rules took place in which he was found to be responsible for the items.  The hearing was adjourned after he asked to be allowed see CCTV of who had access to his cell.

Through his solicitor, he also wanted the gardai brought in to investigate and fingerprints of the bag of razors to be taken. He also asked the evidence be preserved and the solicitor said Mr Dunne would fund that analysis if the prison service or gardai would not examine it.

The disciplinary hearing found against him and a sanction was imposed.

He brought an appeal which was rejected because it did not state any grounds in relation to the original sanction.  A further request for an appeal to the Minister for Justice was found to be made out of time limits.

He brought a High Court challenge against the governor of Wheatfield and the Minister for Justice claiming fair procedures were breached by a failure to allow him examine the CCTV footage.  He also claimed his rights as a prisoner were breached by the failure to transmit his appeal to the Minister.

Ms Justice Miriam O'Regan said Mr Dunne was undoubtedly correct in indicating there were conflicts in the evidence given by the assistant prison governor in relation to the CCTV evidence.  She was satisfied however the footage did not in fact form part of the evidence against him and so was not captured by the prison rules legislation or previous case law.

In relation to the appeal to the Minister, the judge said although there was "clear confusion" as the the appeal Mr Dunne wished to process, she was not satisfied it was such that would warrant a finding of breach of fair procedure on the part of the prison governor.

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