| 5.1°C Dublin

Dad suing State over 16 hours in cell with corpse

A FATHER-of-one who claimed in court he had been traumatised by spending 16 hours in a cell with a corpse is suing the State for damages.

The Herald has learned William Baker (26) is taking a High Court case for compensation over a night he spent with a dead cellmate in Mountjoy.

His fellow inmate, who suffered from epilepsy, died on the first night of a sentence for not paying a €200 fine.

Baker claimed that he woke to find their bunk bed shaking "like thunder and lightning" as Sean Dinnegan suffered the first of two fatal fits.

The civil case, currently before the courts, is being taken by Mr Baker against the State through the governor of the prison.


Last week, a lawyer acting for Mr Baker in a separate court case regarding minor road traffic offences, raised the prison cell incident as he sought leniency from a District Court judge.

The Irish Prison Service said it could not comment on Mr Baker's claims about how long the body of cellmate Sean Dinnegan lay undiscovered.

Inquest reports following his death stated Mr Dinnegan had been in the cell for up to 12 hours before it was found.

Mr Baker's recent motoring court case heard he had been "distressed" by the Mountjoy incident.

An epilepsy sufferer, Mr Dinnegan (34) of Canal Avenue, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, died on his first night in custody at Mountjoy on May 21, 2004.

Mr Baker, of Foster Terrace, Ballybough, subsequently told the inquest at Dublin City Coroner's Court he had awoken to his bed shaking like "thunder and lightning" at about 2.30am, as Mr Dinnegan was having a seizure.

He said he called for help but got no response and after checking Mr Dinnegan was breathing he returned to bed.

Mr Dinnegan later had a second fit and was found dead the following morning.

The inquest heard Mr Dinnegan's brother-in-law had brought his epilepsy tablets to the gardai but he never got them.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

At the time, the jury also called for a review of communications between gardai and prison authorities.

The dead man's brother-in-law had brought his anti-epileptic medication to Mullingar Garda Station.

His sister Kathleen Dinnegan also phoned the station ahead of his arrival and explained to a garda that the tablets "were vital to Sean and it was a matter of life and death that he had them".

He was subsequently sent to Mountjoy without the pills.

Mr Baker told the inquest he found Mr Dinnegan stiff and lifeless the following morning.

A spokesman for the prison service said because of the current civil case, he could not comment on Mr Baker's claims about the amount of time Mr Dinnegan's body was in the cell.