Convicted rapist loses challenge to disciplinary sanction imposed by prison authorities

Michael Murray (51) punished for throwing a bible at a judge during a sentencing hearing over threats to kill barristers

Convicted rapist Michael Murray has lost his High Court challenge against a disciplinary sanction imposed on him by prison authorities.

The sanction, which involves the removal of ordinary privileges for a period of 40 days, was imposed on the 51-year-old, who was incarcerated at the Midlands Prison, for throwing a bible at a judge during a sentencing hearing at the Criminal Courts of Justice in July of last year.

At that hearing, Murray was given a 16-year sentence for making threats to the barristers who had prosecuted him and for harassing others involved in his trial, including his victim.

In his judgment dismissing Murray’s action against the governor of the Midlands Prison, Mr Justice Charles Meenan said the governor was “lawfully entitled” to discipline and sanction Murray in the manner in which he did.


Murray, formerly of Seafield Road, Killiney, Co Dublin, was being sentenced at the time after being found guilty by Circuit Criminal Court jury of threatening to kill barristers Dominic McGinn SC and Tony McGillicuddy SC. He was also convicted of harassing Mr McGinn, along with his victim and his own former solicitor, by advertising them online as prostitutes. He had denied the charges.

Murray was excluded from the sentence hearing and moved to another courtroom after he threw a bible that narrowly missed Judge Karen O’Connor.

Murray was convicted in 2013 of the rape and sexual assault of a woman whose child he abducted. Murray made the threats to the parties on dates between late 2014 and early 2015, while he was serving a 19-year sentence for rape.

Complaint about conduct

Arising out of his alleged behaviour at the sentencing hearing, a complaint about his conduct was made to the governor of the Midlands Prison by prison officers who had attended court. Following a disciplinary process, Murray received the sanction, which reduced his recreation time and limited visitors and phone calls to one per week for a period of 40 days.

Murray’s internal appeal against the sanction to the operations directorate of the Prison Service was dismissed.

In his High Court action against the governor, in which the Irish Prison Service, Minister for Justice, Ireland and the Attorney General were notice parties, Murray claimed the governor was not entitled to impose such a sanction on him. He claimed it could not be imposed as the alleged misconduct was committed while he was in the custody of the court and not the prison authorities.

The prison authorities lack the power to impose a sanction on a prisoner for any breach of the 2007 Prison Rules Act or discipline when that person is in the custody of the court, he alleged. Any such breach could only be dealt with by the presiding judge by way of a finding of contempt of court, it was further claimed.

The governor rejected the claims and argued that the case should be dismissed.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Meenan said Murray was in lawful custody outside of the prison and came within the legal definition of a prisoner within the 2007 rules at the time in question.

He said Murray was still in lawful custody when he threw the bible at Judge O’Connor and that the governor was lawfully entitled to discipline the inmate, who was liable to the sanction imposed.

The case will return before the court for final orders later this month.