herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Melanie's killer seeks more freedom in jail, despite risk to his life

LAWYERS for jailed murderer Daniel McDonnell claim prison authorities have failed to act on a High Court judgement that his detention in solitary confinement breaches his constitutional rights.

Earlier this month, Mr Justice Brian Cregan found the regime Daniel McDonnell has been subject to in Dublin’s Wheatfield Prison for the last 11 months amounted to “a breach of McDonnell’s constitutional right to bodily and psychological integrity”.

Shooting

McDonnell, from Brookview Lawns, Tallaght, was found guilty of murdering Melanie McCarthy McNamara (aged 16) by a jury at the Central Criminal Court and sentenced to life in prisoon. She was gunned down, as she sat in a car with two others in a drive by shooting in Tallaght in February 2012.

Another man Keith Hall, of Kilmartin Drive, Tallaght was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the girl’s manslaughter, but not guilty of her murder.

In his High Court action, McDonnell said he was not allowed mix with other prisoners and spends his time in his single cell. He also claimed he is being denied access to structured activities within the prison. McDonnell claimed he was finding it difficult to cope and his physical and mental health has suffered.

Mr Justice Cregan made a formal order quashing the decision allowing the prison authorities to keep McDonnell in solitary confinement.

The governor says McDonnell has been kept apart from the rest of the prison population for his own safety, and has appealed Judge Cregan’s decision.

McDonnell’s lawyers yesterday launched fresh proceedings claiming nothing has changed since the court’s judgement.

They seek an injunction restraining the prison governor from further breaching McDonnell’s rights to bodily and psychological integrity.

Lawyers for the governor have opposed the application.

Wheatfield Prison Governor Mr Patrick Kavanagh told the court 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”.

Safest

Mr Kavanagh said McDonnell’s current location on a secure wing in Wheat field is the safest place for him to be.

McDonnell’s situation was “reviewed daily” and efforts were made so he could spend more time outside of his cell.  One of the difficulties was McDonnell had fallen out with Keith Hall, who is also in the same wing as him.

Under cross examination, Mr Kavanagh accepted the situation remains unchanged since the court’s judgement was made. He also accepted as things currently stand McDonnell could remain in solitary confinement for some time. 

Danger

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, he said.

Mr Kavanagh also rejected a suggestion that nothing was been done to remedy what is “a really difficult situation”. He further rejected counsel’s suggestion that McDonnell’s regime had improved because of the court proceedings.

Mr Justice Cregan adjourned the matter for two weeks.

He accepted that difficulties in this case “could not be solved overnight”. However given the court’s findings in relation to McDonnell’s rights the status quo could not remain, he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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