herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Murderer's 22-hour days in solitary is a breach of his rights

Daniel McDonnell

A KILLER serving life for the murder of a teenage girl is having his rights breached by his detention in solitary confinement, the High Court ruled.

Daniel McDonnell (20) is in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin for the murder of teenager Melanie McCarthy McNamara

The prison authorities claim he has been kept apart from the rest of the prison population for his own safety.

His lawyers argued the 23 hour lock-up regime is disproportionate and violates his rights.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan found the regime McDonnell has been subject to for the last 11 months amounted to a breach of his constitutional right to bodily and psychological integrity.

Such a breach "is unlawful and neither necessary nor proportional to the perceived threat," he said.

While the regime has been described as a 22 to 23 hour per day lock-up, it is to all intents and purposes solitary confinement, he said.

McDonnell, from Brookview Lawns, Tallaght, was found guilty in January 2014 of murdering Ms McCarthy McNamara (16) who was gunned down, as she sat in a car with two others, in a drive-by shooting in Tallaght in February 2012.

McDonnell had denied the charge.

In his High Court action, McDonnell said he was only allowed one hour outside his cell to do chores and exercise in the afternoon.

REFUSED

He sought to be allowed mix with other prisoners but this was refused by the prison authorities, it was claimed.

He also said he was finding it difficult to cope and his health has suffered.

Lawyers for the governor of Wheatfield said McDonnell has fallen out with prisoners whom he used to associate with and has been kept isolated due to a significant threat to his safety.

Mr Justice Cregan said keeping McDonnell in solitary confinement for 11 months was "a clear sustained violation of his constitutional right to bodily and psychological integrity".

Prisoners, he said, are citizens and are entitled to full protection of the constitutional rights that remain to them.

The judge accepted the intent of keeping him in solitary was for his own protection, but doing so for 11 months was wholly disproportionate.

The judge adjourned the matter to later this week to allow the sides time to consider his judgment before making any formal orders.

He hoped both sides could come up with something that would remedy the situation.

hnews@herald.ie

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