17 Aug 2022

Attempted murder accused challenges his 23-hour lock-up at Midland Prison Portlaoise

Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

A prisoner remanded in custody pending his trial for attempted murder has brought a High Court challenge over his detention at the Midlands Prison's segregation unit.

The proceedings have been brought by Caolan Smyth who claims that since being moved to the prison some months ago he has been locked in his cell for 23 hours a day.

Mr Smyth claims that he has been told by the prison authorities that he is being kept away from other prisoners for his own safety due to an existing threat to his life.

Mr Smyth strongly disagrees with that assessment and rejects claims that his life is in danger from other prisoners and says his segregation from the general prison population is taking its toll on his physical and mental health.

Mr Smyth aged 28 of Cuileann Court, Donore, Co Meath is charged with the attempted murder of James 'Mago' Gately who was injured but survived after being shot five times at a Topaz garage in Clonshaugh,  Co Dublin, on May 10 2017.

Mr Smyth's trial is pending before the non-jury Special Criminal Court. 

Mr Smyth, represented by Keith Spencer Bl and instructed by Niall O Connor and Co Solicitors, claims that in addition to his continued detention in solitary confinement he is only permitted screened visits and is not given regular exercise.

As he barred from associating with other inmates he cannot avail of the educational. vocational and recreational facilities given to other prisoners. 

It is claimed that the prison service has not provided any information to justify its claim that Mr Smyth's has been isolated from other prisoners for his own safety.

The conditions of his detention, it is alleged, amounts to the imposition of a punishment without any disciplinary hearings being conducted.

Mr Smyth has never been asked nor consulted about his continued segregation.

His incarceration in the segregation unit and being placed in a 23 hour a day lockup for a period of months, he claims amounts to a breach of his constitutional rights, including his right to bodily integrity, it is also claimed.

He also claims that his right to prepare for his trial is not being respected and cannot get professional visits form his Dublin-based lawyers after 5-30pm on weekdays.

Arising out the conditions of his detention Mr Smyth has brought judicial review proceedings against the Governor of the Midlands Prison, the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice and Equality.

 As a result of the conditions of his incarceration, Mr Smyth seeks various orders from the court including one quashing the Governor's decision to detain him in the prison's segregation unit.

In the alternative, he seeks an order quashing the Minister and the Prison Service's refusal to move him to the general population in the Midlands Prison or to another prison.

He also seeks declarations from the court including that being held in segregation from other prisoners in a 23-hour lock-up for an extended period of time without reasons amounts to a breach of his constitutional and ECHR rights and is unlawful.

Permission to bring the challenge was previously granted by the High Court.

The case was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Senan Allen this week, who was told that a timetable had been agreed between the parties that should result in the case being heard in the coming weeks.

The judge adjourned the matter to a date in April.

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