Former inmate loses injuries claim over stairwell fall at Portlaoise prison

Graham Hynes says he slipped on small butter pack while climbing stairs in B Wing

Graham Hynes is a former inmate at Midlands Prison, Portlaoise. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Graham Hynes is a former inmate at Midlands Prison, Portlaoise. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

A former inmate at Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, who fell on a stairwell in the prison seven years ago has lost a €60,000 personal injuries claim in the Circuit Civil Court on Wednesday against the Minister for Justice.

Graham Hynes, of Oakland Grove, Kildare Town, Co Kildare, told Judge Cormac Quinn he slipped on a small butter pack as he was climbing the stairwell in the B Wing of the prison.

He said he had fallen heavily on his right knee, injuring his leg and twisting his back. Initially he had not wanted to make a complaint against the Governor because of his situation but later did so.

Hynes told barrister Damian Sheridan, who appeared for the Minister with Deirdre O’Halloran of Corrigan and Corrigan Solicitors, that he had broken his leg in an earlier accident outside of the prison but that this injury had cleared up and he was symptom free prior to the stairwell fall in August 2014.

He said particles of food would often fall off trays and butter packs were thrown around the place by some inmates. He had been looking ahead at the time and had not seen the butter pack on the second last step at the top of the stairwell.

Forensic engineer Paul Romeril told the court that food was regularly carried up the stairwell in question by inmates returning with food trays to their cells. He said there had been photographic evidence of the stairwell itself but he did not think it would be useful to the court in determining the issue.

Mr Romeril said cleaning in the wing was carried out while inmates were locked up between 10 am and noon when they would be released to have their food.

Judge Cormac Quinn, in dismissing Hynes’s case, said he had received methadone earlier that day for treatment of a drug dependency problem and he may have been intoxicated at the time of the incident.

The judge said he would have dismissed the case also on the basis that Mr Hynes had not been holding onto the stairwell railings, knew the area well and should have been looking where he was going at the time.

He directed that he pay the Minister’s legal costs in the case.