Sunday 24 February 2019

Slopping out: Irish prisoners line up for €4.2m payout

Mountjoy Prison in Dublin
Mountjoy Prison in Dublin News Desk

Some of Ireland’s most notorious criminals are suing the State because they are being forced to slop out their prison cells.

The Government is facing almost 800 claims for compensation from prisoners having to empty out their cells chamber pots each morning.

It is believed that hundreds of claims flooded in after rumours began last July that a prisoner was awarded €35,000 in a confidential settlement.

According to reports in The Sunday Times, some dozen legal firms are involved in taking cases, the majority of which are believed to have come from prisoners being held in Mountjoy.

The Northside Dublin prison ended the practice of slopping out in 2013 but it continues in Limerick and Cork prisons.

“There are international standards that are applicable incarceration ad I don’t think we’ve adhered to them in this country,” a lawyer involved in the cases told The Sunday Times.

Adding: “That taking a person’s freedom did not entitle the state to inflict further degrading punishment.”

In 2007, the State faced almost 400 compensation claims from current and former prisoners who claimed damages for the distress of cleaning out their cells and a lack of access to flushing toilets.

These began after a landmark case in Scotland in 2005 where inmate Robert Napier - sentenced to six years for armed robbery- was awarded €8,600 compensation after spending 40 days in an overcrowded cell with no guaranteed access to a toilet.

Mr Napier used the European Convention on Human Rights to sue prison management, and it is understood that in all current Irish cases the same is being claimed.

Among those current and former prisoners claiming that their ‘right to dignity’ had been breached is Limerick gang leader Christy Keane, who served 10 years in Portlaoise for drugs possession.

Lenonard Finnegan, who in 2008 was convicted of assaulting a Norwegian tourist by repeatedly stamping on his head, has also filed a case.

If the claims are approved, the taxpayer could be facing a massive legal bill – as each plaintiff could be entitled to between €5,000 to €10,000.

The State Claims Agency, who is managing the defence of most of the cases, told The Sunday Times it “was formulating a legal strategy to deal with 834 claims for compensation alleging lack of in-cell sanitation.”

The SCA declined to comment on the rumoured €35,000 settlement but said that some 475 claims had already been resolved with “no payments of any description were made in any of these cases”.

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