Saturday 22 October 2016

Court agrees jail had right to keep Melanie McCarthy McNamara (16) killer in 'solitary'

Daniel McDonnell
Daniel McDonnell
Victim Melanie McCarthy-McNamara

A murderer's detention in solitary confinement for a year was not a breach of his rights, the Court of Appeal ruled.

The court overturned a High Court finding earlier this year in favour of Daniel McDonnell, Brookview Lawns, Tallaght, who was found guilty of murdering 16-year-old Melanie McCarthy McNamara by a jury at the Central Criminal Court.

She was gunned down as she sat in a car with two others in a drive-by shooting in Tallaght, Dublin, in February 2012.

The High Court's Mr Justice Brian Cregan had found the 23-hour lock-up regime under which he was serving his sentence at Wheatfield Prison in Dublin amounted to a breach of his constitutional right to bodily and psychological integrity.

The prison governor appealed that decision. He argued McDonnell had been kept apart from the rest of the prison population for his own safety.

Yesterday, the three-judge Court of Appeal found Mr Justice Cregan fell into error.

It is for the prison authorities to decide what measures are necessary for the safety of prisoners, it said.

A high level of threat or some extreme circumstance may justify severely restrictive conditions of detention on a temporary basis, the court found.

The High Court's declaration that his solitary confinement was in breach of his constitutional rights "did not reflect a sufficient or correct analysis of the complex issues in the case," the court also found.


These included factors such as that the nature of the threat to McDonnell is grave, and the only purpose of the temporary conditions is his protection.

The actual conditions of McDonnell's detention, although harsh, are not intolerable, the court said.

A court cannot dictate to governor of a prison how the institution is to be managed, it also said.

Wheatfield Prison Governor Mr Patrick Kavanagh told a previous court hearing in February that there is a serious threat to McDonnell's life and safety.

The threat was such McDonnell is not safe among the general prisoner population "in any prison in Ireland".

Mr Kavanagh said at that time that McDonnell's location on a secure wing in Wheatfield Prison is the safest place for him to be.

The criminals who wished to harm Daniel McDonnell, he said, had "an extensive means of influence" within prisons, and it was impossible for the prison services to know where exactly the danger to McDonnell would come from.

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