Prison culture of transferring ‘problems’ resulted in violent death of young inmate
Neither medical records nor medication followed killer during ‘reckless’ transfer
Stephen Egan: The report into the death of Gary Douch reveals a prison service so keen to transfer the troublesome, violent and mentally ill Egan that no one group of staff or facility ever took ownership of his care. In one 2½-year period, he was transferred 17 times. Photograph: Collins/Court
The Irish Prison Service and the Central Mental Hospital were to blame for serious errors leading up to the killing in Mountjoy Prison of Gary Douch, who was beaten and stamped to death in a crowded basement holding cell by Stephen Egan, a commission of investigation has concluded.
The report by Gráinne McMorrow SC has also found that the dead man, his killer and five other men they were sharing a basement cell with when the 2006 murder occurred were all being accommodated in a manner that breached their human rights.
Overcrowding at the jail had “completely undermined” the prison staff’s ability to facilitate Douch’s request to be housed away from the main prison population because he feared for his safety.
Douch, originally from Coolock in north Dublin, was 21 at the time of his murder in the early hours of August 1st, 2006, when serving a sentence of three years for assault causing harm. In the days leading up to his killing, he had requested that he be housed away from the main prison population because he feared for his safety. He was placed in a holding cell in the basement of the jail that was designed to hold prisoners temporarily for short periods while being committed to the prison.
However, because of acute overcrowding, it was being used as a communal cell into which prisoners who had requested protection were placed to sleep.
Stephen Egan, then aged 22 and from Coolock, Dublin, was placed in the cell with Douch and five others because there was nowhere else in the jail to house him. He had been transferred into the jail two days earlier from Cloverhill Prison after spending just over two weeks there following his discharge from a nine-day treatment at the Central Mental Hospital for psychosis and hallucinations. Some time in the night, he fatally attacked Douch, stamping and punching him to death before smearing excrement on his body. The dead man was found unresponsive, wrapped in a blanket, the following morning when the cell was unlocked.
At the time Egan, who had been in and out of institutions from the time he was 15, was waiting to be tried on charges relating to the robbery of a betting shop in north Dublin.
The commission concludes that Mountjoy staff who agreed to Egan’s transfer into the jail on July 29th, 2006, did not know that prison governor John Lonergan had refused to take him into the jail two weeks earlier. It concludes of Egan’s transfer into Mountjoy: “[He] was not given a proper medical on arrival. There were evident deficits in management, decision-making, record-keeping and communication in this regard.” His medical files did not travel with him when he was transferred to Mountjoy, nor did his medication, meaning he was not in receipt of his medication in the days leading up to the killing.