Life prisoner goes to High Court to end his isolated detention in Midlands Prison Portlaoise

Warren Dumbrell claims prison authorities have kept him away from the mainstream prison population with very little interaction allowed

Court Reporter


Court Reporter


Challenging life prisoner his isolated  detention in Midlands Prison Portlaoise

Convicted murderer Warren Dumbrell has brought a High Court challenge over the conditions of his detention in a segregation unit the Midlands Prison.

Dumbrell is serving a life sentence for the murder of Christopher Cawley he received almost six years ago.

He claims that for a number of years the prison authorities have kept him away from the mainstream prison population with very little interaction with other prisoners.

Dumbrell also alleges  he is being segregated despite the fact he has not been placed on a regime under the relevant prison rules that must be invoked when a prisoner is being kept away from other prisoners.

Arising out of his ongoing detention he has brought proceedings against the Governor of the Midlands Prison, the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice & Equality. 

Micheal Ó Higgins SC for Dumbrell said it is his clients belief that his conditions relate to an incident in 1997 when he was one of several inmates involved in a siege at Mountjoy Prison when prison officers were taken hostage and threatened. 

Dumbrell now aged 42 years received a ten year prison sentence for his role in that incident. 

Counsel said while Dumbrell believes he is being punished for that incident. Counsel said it was accepted that such a contention would be "difficult to prove."

While Dumbrell has been a challenging prisoner with a poor disciplinary record he has in more recent times made great strides to improving his relations with those he is in contact with.

He has very little interaction with other prisoners. He is allowed associate with one other inmate, but his requests to be allowed associate with others have been denied. 

The authorities claim that Dumbrell is kept in a single cell, which is the exact same as every other cell in the prison and has access to washing machine, pool room, computer, relaxation room, and has 10 seperate classes at the prison school per week.

However, counsel said this claim is inaccurate. Outside his client's cell is a cage like structure with bars on either side.

He is not allowed to mix with 14 other prisoners on his landing and says it is not true that he is included in all other "lifer" functions as claimed by the authorities. 

In his action, Dumbrell seeks various orders including one quashing the ongoing decision to keep him a segregation unit away from the other prisoners. He also wants an order directing his release from the segregation unit.

He further seeks declarations from the court including that holding him in a separation unit without providing reasons for doing so amounts to a breach of his constitutional rights, and that his ongoing separation from the mainstream prison population is unlawful. 

Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan.

The judge made the action returnable to a date in late March.

In 2011 Warren Dumbrell and his brother Jeffrey were found guilty by a jury following a trial at the Central Criminal Court of the murder of 33-year-old father-of-six Christopher Cawley in Dublin.

The brothers from Emmet Place Inchicore, had denied murdering Mr Cawley on 29 October 2006 at the Tyrone Place flats in Inchicore where the victim lived.

Mr Cawley bled to death after being stabbed six times in the back, hip and thighs during an attack that was witnessed by his wife and two of his children.