Former prisoner awarded €150,000 over attack
Dublin man was slashed by fellow inmate at Wheatfield
Peter Creighton, a former prisoner in Wheatfield Prison, leaving court after he was awarded €150,000 damages following a High Court action for damages. Photograph: Collins Courts
A former prisoner who sued the State over an incident in which he was slashed in the face and body in an unprovoked attack by a fellow inmate has been awarded €150,000 damages at the High Court.
Peter Creighton (34) from Clondalkin in Dublin was serving a sentence in Wheatfield Prison, Dublin, when he was attacked with a Stanley knife on January 19th, 2003. He later needed 120 stitches.
The High Court heard it was a horrific attack which occurred in a medical room where methadone was being dispensed to around 15 to 20 prisoners. He was slashed on his face from nose to ear as well as his neck and torso. A prison officer managed to pull him away and bring him straight to the prison surgery.
He claimed the prison and the State failed to take reasonable precautions for his safety and to ensure he was not exposed to risk of injury. He claimed he did not know his attacker and did not know why it had happened. He also claimed the system for bringing prisoners from the cells to receive methadone was dangerous. The defendants denied the claims.
The case previously came before the court in 2009 when he was awarded €40,000 after a judge found there was a was a failure on the part of the prison authorities in their duty of care particularly in the light of two attacks in the previous six months before this one. The defendants appealed the High Court decision and, in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled the case should be re-heard.
Following a re-hearing before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, Mr Creighton was awarded €100,000 for the injuries to his face and €50,000 for the injuries to his body.
The judge ruled the authorities failed in their duty by allowing in excess of 15 prisoners to congregate in an area. Allowing such numbers facilitated the assault which would not have occurred if the numbers had been kept to four or less, he found.
There was also a breach of duty by failing to erect netting around the perimeter yard of the prison preventing items being thrown in from the outside, he found. In all probability, that was where the knife used in the attack came from, the judge said.
Afterwards, Gerry Burns, solicitor for Mr Creighton, said this would be the first case in which it has been held by a court the prison authorities have a duty of care to inmates. He said the decision is significant from the point of view the incident occurred in 2003 and has been through the courts already