Convicted murderer challenges refusal to grant him temporary release

Bernard Dempsey convicted in 2006 over shooting of James Curran in Dublin pub in April 2005

Bernard Dempsey (63) is serving a life sentence he received for the murder of James Curran, who was shot three times in the head at close range in the Green Lizard Pub on Dublin’s Francis Street in April 2005. File photograph: Collins.

Bernard Dempsey (63) is serving a life sentence he received for the murder of James Curran, who was shot three times in the head at close range in the Green Lizard Pub on Dublin’s Francis Street in April 2005. File photograph: Collins.

 

A convicted murderer has brought a High Court challenge to the Minister for Justice’s refusal to grant him temporary release from prison.

Bernard Dempsey (63) is serving a life sentence he received for the murder of James Curran, who was shot three times in the head at close range in the Green Lizard Pub on Dublin’s Francis Street in April 2005.

Dempsey knew Mr Curran and was unanimously convicted in June 2006 by a jury at the Central Criminal Court. There were allegations of witness intimidation during the trial.

Mark Lynam BL, instructed by solicitor Ciaran Mulholland, told the High Court on Thursday that Dempsey currently suffers from poor health, including a cardiac problem, asthma and diabetes. He is being detained in Wheatfield Prison so he can be close to a hospital, counsel said.

Dempsey, from Golden Lane, Dublin, has undergone several reviews by the Parole Board, counsel said. Official reports from medical professionals and the operations directorate of the Irish Prison Service had stated there is “little to be gained by keeping Dempsey in custody”, he said.

A doctor found that Dempsey’s medical conditions are so severe that the prison environment, including an open prison, is not suitable for him.

Reviewable release

Following the latest review, the Probation Service, a Prison Review Committee and the Parole Board all recommended and agreed that Dempsey should be given reviewable temporary release.

That recommendation was forwarded for consideration to the delegated Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton. In a decision on June 3rd last, the Minister did not approve the recommendations and directed that his case again be reviewed in 12 months.

Mr Lynam told the court that the Minister’s decision lacked clarity and was uninformative. Without knowing the Minister’s reasoning for the refusal, it was not possible to challenge the lawfulness of the decision, counsel said.

His client is not in a position to know what his prospects are in 12 months times, or if there is anything more he can do to improve his prospects of release, counsel added.

Rights breach

Counsel said the Minister’s refusal to grant his client temporary release, along with a failure to give adequate reasons for the decision, amounted to a breach of Dempsey’s constitutional rights to fair procedures.

In judicial review proceedings against the Minister, Dempsey seeks an order quashing the refusal to grant him temporary release from his life sentence.

In the alternative, he seeks an order directing the Minister to provide him with adequate reasons why his application for temporary release has been declined.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Ms Justice Siobhán Stack on Thursday.

The judge made the matter returnable to a date in October.