Convicted murderer challenges detention conditions

Warren Dumbrell, who is serving life for stabbing, claims his rights are being breached

Convicted murderer Warren Dumbrell has brought a High Court challenge over the conditions of his detention in a segregation unit in the Midlands Prison.

Dumbrell (42) is serving a life sentence imposed almost six years ago for the murder of Christopher Cawley.

He claims the prison authorities have kept him away from the mainstream prison population for a number of years with very little interaction with other prisoners.

He also alleges he is being segregated despite not being placed on a regime under the relevant prison rules as required.


His case is against the governor of the Midlands Prison, Irish Prison Service and Minister for Justice and Equality.

Mícheál P O’Higgins SC, for Dumbrell, said his client believes his conditions relate to an incident in 1997 when he was one of several inmates involved in a siege at Mountjoy Prison when prison officers were taken hostage and threatened.

Dumbrell received a 10-year prison sentence for his role in that incident.

While Dumbrell believes he is being punished for that incident, it was accepted that claim would be “difficult to prove”, counsel said.

‘Challenging’ prisoner

While Dumbrell has been a “challenging” prisoner with a poor disciplinary record, he has in more recent times made great strides to improving his relations with those he is in contact with, counsel said.

His present position involves very little interaction with other prisoners, the court heard. He is allowed to associate with one other inmate but his requests to be allowed associate with others have been denied.

The authorities claim he is kept in a single cell, exactly the same as other cells in the prison, and has access to the washing machine, pool room, computer, relaxation room, and has 10 separate classes at the prison school per week, counsel said.

This claim was inaccurate because, outside his cell, there is a cage-like structure with bars on either side, counsel said. He is also not allowed to mix with 14 other prisoners on his landing and says it is not true he is included in other “lifer” functions as claimed by the authorities.

Dumbrell seeks various orders, including quashing the decision to keep him in a segregation unit away from the other prisoners. Holding him in such a unit without providing reasons for doing so breaches his constitutional rights, he claims.

Stabbed six times

Permission to bring the action was granted, on an ex parte basis, by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan who returned the matter to late March.

Warren Dumbrell and his brother Jeffrey were found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of the murder of 33-year-old father of six Cawley in Dublin. The brothers, from Emmet Place, Inchicore, had denied murdering Mr Cawley on 29th October, 2006, at the Tyrone Place flats in Inchicore where the victim lived.

Mr Cawley bled to death after being stabbed six times in the back, hip and thighs during an attack witnessed by his wife and two of his children.