Belfast men lose action over beating by fellow prisoners

 

Two Belfast men, who claimed they were severely beaten up in Mountjoy Prison by fellow prisoners who believed they had connections with loyalist paramilitaries, yesterday failed in claims for £30,000 damages for personal injuries against the State.

Robert Morton, of Lomond Avenue, Belfast, and Samuel Warnock, of Inverwood Court, Belfast, alleged in the Circuit Civil Court yesterday that they had been associated with paramilitaries because of an Evening Herald article published on the evening before the assault.

Judge Kevin Haugh heard that the 1992 article by the newspaper's then security correspondent included a paragraph stating that a number of men in custody relating to a drugs find in Dublin were from loyalist areas in the North and that one of them had loyalist paramilitary connections.

The court was told that the following day while waiting in an open cell in the prison about seven unknown prisoners burst in shouting "Orange bastards" and poured a cupful of lighter fuel over them before punching and kicking and clubbing them with a snooker ball in a sock.

They claimed to have received severe bruising and lacerations to their rib-cages as well as back and spinal injuries.

Both men claimed the prison authorities had been negligent in failing to segregate them from other prisoners and ought to have been aware of media comment relating to alleged paramilitary links.

Judge Haugh told Mr John Boland, counsel for the State, he accepted that for the past 18 years there had not been any instances of prisoners being attacked because they were from Northern Ireland or were Protestants from Northern Ireland.

A previous attack had taken place on Northern prisoners at an extraordinary time when bombs had gone off in Dublin, but there had been no evidence of any sectarian, quasi-politically inspired or bigoted attack in the past 18 years.

Judge Haugh said both Martin and Warnock had stated in evidence that no hostility had been previously shown towards them by other prisoners. They had stated that it had taken them completely by surprise.

He agreed with Mr Boland that the prison officers equally had no apprehension of such an attack and had acted as quickly as was possible in the circumstances.

Over the past 18 years prisoners from Northern Ireland had been detained in Mountjoy Prison on a regular and routine basis and he accepted there had been no reason for segregating them from other prisoners.

Judgh Haugh said both men had been subjected to a vicious and bloody attack from other prisoners, but on the evidence before the court he had no grounds to hold there had been a breach of the prison authority's duty to take reasonable care for their protection.