A 31-year-old man was found not guilty of assaulting a fellow inmate with a blade in a cell at Portlaoise Prison at a recent sitting of the Circuit Court in Portlaoise.
Leonard Dumbrell, 31, of The Park, Clonattin Village, Gorey, Wexford, but originally from Inchicore, Dublin, was charged with assault causing harm, production of an article capable of inflicting serious injury, and violent disorder, at Portlaoise Prison, on March 29, 2016.
State barrister, Mr Will Fennelly said that on that date, a prisoner, Mr Peter Matthews, was restrained by a number of other inmates in a cell while the accused allegedly used a blade to inflict very serious lacerations to his head. He was left dripping blood and taken to hospital, where he received stitches and staples.
However, in evidence during the trial Mr Matthews said he could not really see who was in the cell. He said he thought he saw the accused, but said he was not too sure who held the blade that was used to cut him.
He told the court he thought the attack was just a case of mistaken identity.
At this point, Mr Fennelly made an application to have the injured party’s original statement read into the record. This was acceded to by Judge Keenan Johnson.
In his original statement, Mr Matthews said he saw the accused with the blade. He said that the accused used the blade, sticking the blade into him and pulling it down slowly.
“I thought I was going to die,” he told gardaí.
Mr Matthews confirmed that he had made this statement the day after the incident.
During questioning by defence barrister, Ms Fiona Murphy SC, Mr Matthews said “it could be true” that the accused left the cell before he was cut up.
He accepted that his original statement “could be wrong”.
Mr Fennelly asked him why was the accused’s name given in the original statement, to which Mr Matthews replied: “I thought that’s what I saw, but it could have been any one of them.”
Garda Detective Brian Kennedy gave evidence of interviewing the accused. He said that the accused denied assaulting Mr Matthews.
The accused also said he had given prison officers the clothes he was wearing at the time, as he knew there would be no DNA on them.
“When I was in the cell I realised something was going to happen, so I left,” the accused told gardaí.
The accused said that the injured party had said he was being cut for about a minute, but CCTV footage showed that the accused was only in the cell for around 20 seconds.
The accused was found not guilty.