Harsh regime behind bars of corrupt officer

Charlie Mallon

THE daily life of a jailed prison officer -- confined to a cell in a segregated unit for his own safety -- has been revealed in court.

The behind-bars life of corrupt ex-officer Dillon O'Brien emerged at his appeal hearing.

Counsel for the former prison officer, serving four years for smuggling drugs, booze and mobile phones into Mountjoy Prison, submitted that the sentence was excessive.

O'Brien (38), from Clonsilla who was in charge of landing B3 in the prison, trafficked heroin and mobile phones to inmate Thomas Hinchon, having received the items from Hinchon's brother Sean.

Michael O'Higgins said his client was in the segregation unit at the Midlands jail in Portlaoise. He told the Court of Criminal Appeal that O'Brien's incarceration should be treated like that of foreign nationals, whose sentences were reduced because of the difficulties they experienced in a different cultural environment. But the three judge Court held that Judge Katherine Delahunt had not erred in her assessment of all the factors and could in fact have imposed a sentence of ten years.

The offences occurred shortly after after the Oireachtas brought in the 2006 legislation for offences of smuggling contraband into prisons.


To demonstrate the harshness of the regime, Mr O'Higgins outlined O'Brien's routine - the highly supervised regime. It runs:

8.15am: breakfast in cell.

9.30am-10.30am: released and allowed to use gym on his own.

10.30am-11.30am: back in cell.

11.30am-12pm: half hour in exercise yard measuring 64 paces by 18 paces.

Midday: lunch in cell.

5.30pm: half hour use of pool room.

6pm: locked back in cell.

He added that the rule about the pool room were subject to change and on Saturday and Sunday he did not have access to the gym.

Saturday sees a half-hour visit for his wife and three kids. Mr O'Higgins stressed that while there was loss of liberty on being jailed, under this regime he had to spend an inordinate amount of time on his own.

This was a substantial burden to place on a person as the association with other people on a day to day basis was a basic and fundamental element of life.

O'Brien was not allowed to be a "trustee" prisoner in that work in the kitchens for example would bring him into the general prison population and possible danger.

He said the sentencing judge was not only entitled but obliged to recognise the particular difficulties visited on a particular category of prisoner.

O'Brien had quickly admitted his role to gardai and said he had been leading "a double life".

He had been an addict but had turned his life and had taken professional help.

He had been consumed with remorse and the trial judge had not taken sufficient account of his former good character, and seven years employment with Microsoft and five years with the Prison Service.


He had a spectacular fall from grace and would be restricted in future employment.

Prosecuting Counsel Seamus Clarke said Judge Delahunt had restrained herself and could have imposed ten years.

This was a breach of trust perpetuated over a period of time with drugs worth €1190 on the street which were more valuable inside. He also submitted that some people "might enjoy solitary confinement".