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Thursday 21 November 2019

Murderer Freddie drops his High Court challenge over 'oppressive' prison regime

Freddie Thompson (pictured) gave a statement with Brian Rattigan that there was no bad blood between them
Freddie Thompson (pictured) gave a statement with Brian Rattigan that there was no bad blood between them

Convicted killer Freddie Thompson has withdrawn his High Court challenge over being subjected to what he said was an "extremely oppressive" and "severe" regime at Portlaoise Prison.

The withdrawal came after he was moved from the isolation block and placed with the mainstream prison population.

Thompson (39), of Dublin's south inner city, is serving a life sentence he received last year following his conviction for the murder of David Douglas in 2016.

He brought a High Court challenge against the prison authorities over what he claimed were the oppressive conditions of his detention over the past 18 months in Portlaoise Prison's A4 wing, which is known as the punishment block.

Opposed

The Irish Prison Service, the Portlaoise governor and the justice minister opposed Thompson's action, and the High Court has previously heard his prison regime derived from "security concerns".

The action, which was launched last August, had been before the courts several times.

It was back again yesterday before Mr Justice Charles Meenan, who was informed by Padraig Dwyer, appearing with Keith Spencer for Thompson, that the case could be withdrawn.

Counsel said this was because his client had been moved from the A4 wing in the previous 24 hours.

The defendants had not admitted that Thompson's move was related to the High Court proceedings.

Given his client's transfer, counsel said the action was not going ahead and could be struck out.

Brian Rattigan
Brian Rattigan

With regard to the costs of the action, where significant issues of law had been raised, counsel said he was seeking a recommendation under the Legal Aid Custody Scheme for two counsel and a solicitor.

The State said it was adopting a neutral stance on that application.

Mr Justice Meenan said he was satisfied, given the circumstances of the case, to make the recommendation sought.

In his action, Thompson had sought various orders including one ending his detention away from the mainstream prison population and getting better access to the prison's facilities.

He also claimed that in breach of his human rights he had been allowed contact with only two other prisoners and spends most of his time effectively on lock-up in his cell.

He further claimed he is being denied regular exercise, fresh air and appropriate education.

Thompson claimed his situation was unbearable and his mental health had been affected.

He said that before being transferred to Portlaoise he had always been housed within the general prison population.

He also claimed he was being treated differently from other prisoners serving life sentences.

He claimed he had been placed in the punishment block due to security concerns, which he rejected.

Threat

As part of his action, both Thompson and fellow convicted criminal Brian Rattigan gave sworn statements that there was no bad blood between them.

Both men said they had met each other in the prison and they posed no security threat to each other.

The court also previously heard that the respondents all denied Thompson's prison regime was oppressive.

They said that after the action was launched, Thompson was given access to four other prisoners and had started attending the prison's school in September.

They also argued that Thompson had been provided with better access to facilities including the gym, recreation, open-air exercise and other services.

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