Six-month sentence for assaulting four prison staff

Dangerous prisoner should be in Central Mental Hospital, says judge

Portlaoise Prison

An inmate of Portlaoise Prison, who has been described over the years as Ireland’s most dangerous prisoner, has been given an extra six-month sentence for assaulting four prison guards.

“I really wonder is prison the best place for him, would the Central Mental Hospital not be a more suitable place for him?” asked Judge Catherine Staines, sentencing Leon Wright, originally from Dublin but now with an address at Portlaoise Prison.

The courtroom had to be cleared yesterday (Thursday, March 23) before Wright was brought in, accompanied by five Control and Restraint officers armed with shields and batons.

Inspector Maria Conway gave evidence that on February 11 last year, the governor of the prison and an ACO visited the accused, accompanied by a five-man Control and Restraint team.

The accused became aggressive and shouted abuse at the governor, and when the governor turned around Wright attempted to headbutt him. The Control and Restraint team stepped in and the accused assaulted three of them, and also assaulted the ACO.

Wright had 106 previous convictions, and is currently serving an eight-year sentence for two counts of assault causing harm. He has numerous convictions for various assaults.

Defence, Ms Josephine Fitzpatrick said the accused reacted on the day when restrained.

He began criminality at the age of 14 when he stole a phone, and was living on the streets making a living from crime.

At the age of 17, he received a lengthy sentence for hijacking cars.

Ms Fitzpatrick said that he had been diagnosed with psychosis and was under constant review by the psychiatric services.

After reading victim impact statements on the assaulted prison officers, Judge Catherine Staines noted that they had suffered general muscle injuries. There was fear experienced by their partners and spouses that the men are constantly at risk of assault.

“This is desperately, desperately sad for the accused, and very frightening for the prison officers,” said Judge Staines.

She said it was difficult for the court to deal with the matter, and expressed her hope that the accused would get proper treatment.

In sentencing, the judge said there had to be some form of deterrent to this kind of behaviour, otherwise prison would not be workable.

Judge Staines imposed a six-month sentence, consecutive to the sentence the accused is already serving. Recognisance was fixed in the event of an appeal.

Judge Staines also said she assumed the prison officers would receive compensation from the State for their injuries.

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