Prisoner challenges punishment over Mountjoy fire


A PRISONER who denies he was involved in setting fire to netting placed around Mountjoy Prison has brought a High Court challenge to being punished over the incident.

The netting was put in place to prevent contraband being thrown into the jail.

Jonathan Cummins (25), who has served more than a year of a 3½-year sentence, has sued the governor of Mountjoy Prison in Dublin and the Irish Prison Service, alleging he received an unfair punishment of six weeks’ loss of privileges.

Leave to bring the judicial review proceedings was granted on an ex parte (one side only represented) application yesterday by Mr Justice Michael Peart, who adjourned the matter to October. A stay on the punishment applies.

Mícheál P O’Higgins SC, for Cummins, said his client was one of three prisoners sharing a cell in Mountjoy and was asleep there on June 24th when pieces of paper, which had been set on fire, were thrown out of the window in an attempt to burn a hole in netting surrounding the outside of the prison.

Some prison staff saw the papers being thrown from the cell about 11pm on the night of June 24th, Mr O’Higgins said.

Cummins told the authorities he had nothing to do with the incident, but while one of his cellmates had owned up to the action, the prison authorities took the view that all three were responsible.

Following a disciplinary hearing on June 26th, all three cellmates appeared to have been given the same punishment, Mr O’Higgins added. Cummins received a six-week punishment including loss of visits, phone calls, tuck-shop visits and being prohibited from sending or receiving letters.

Cummins indicated he wanted to appeal but was informed that his punishment would not be suspended pending the outcome of his appeal.

It was Cummins’s case that the punishment imposed on him was unfair, unreasonable and disproportionate, Mr O’Higgins said.

There was failure to assess Cummins’s alleged role in the incident and his right to appeal had been denied, he added.

Cummins, due for release in summer 2013, is seeking an order quashing the punishment decision and penalty.

He argues that the refusal to suspend his punishment pending the outcome of his appeal is contrary to fair procedures and constitutional justice and he also claims the prison authorities have failed to perform their functions in a manner compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.