Convicted rapist challenges sanction imposed on him by prison authorities

Michael Murray threw bible at judge during sentencing hearing

In his High Court action Michael Murray claims the governor was not entitled to impose such a sanction on him. Photograph: Alan Betson

In his High Court action Michael Murray claims the governor was not entitled to impose such a sanction on him. Photograph: Alan Betson


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

The sanction, which involves the removal of ordinary privileges for a period of 40 days, was imposed on Murray for throwing a bible at a judge during a sentencing hearing at the Court of Criminal Justice in late July.

At that hearing Murray was given an additional 16-year prison sentence for making threats to the barristers who prosecuted him and harassing others involved in his trial, including his victim. He is currently incarcerated at the Midlands Prison.

Murray (50), formerly of Seafield Road, Killiney, Co Dublin, had been found guilty of threatening to kill barristers Dominic McGinn SC and Tony McGillicuddy BL. He was also convicted of harassing the woman he is convicted of raping by posting her name and phone number online in an ad offering her as a prostitute, and doing the same to Mr McGinn and his own defence solicitor.

Murray was excluded from his sentence hearing, and moved to another courtroom, after he threw a bible, narrowly missing, Judge Karen O’Connor.

He 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.

Arising out of his alleged behaviour at the sentencing hearing a complaint about his behaviour was made to the governor of the Midlands Prison by prison officers who had attended court.

Following a disciplinary process Murray received a sanction from the governor of a loss of ordinary privileges within the prison, including restrictions on his recreation time and limiting visits and phone calls to one per week for a period of 40 days.

Murray’s appeal against the sanction was dismissed.

In his High Court action Murray claims the governor was not entitled to impose such a sanction on him, which came into force in early August.

He claims the sanction cannot be imposed as the alleged misconduct was committed while he was in the custody of the court and not of the prison authorities.

At the High Court on Wednesday Barry White SC, with Niall Storan BL, for Murray told the High Court it is Murray’s case that the prison authorities lack the power to impose a sanction on a prisoner for any breach of the prison rules or discipline when that person is in the custody of the court.

Any such breach could only be dealt with by the presiding judge by way of a finding of contempt of court, counsel said.

In the circumstances it is argued that the sanction imposed on Murray could not be justified and was unreasonable and not in accordance with law.

In judicial review proceedings against the governor of the Midlands Prison, Murray seeks an order quashing the sanction imposed on him.

Seeks damages

He also seeks damages and several declarations including that the discipline of a prisoner for conduct committed while in the custody of the court is not something provided for by the 2007 prison rules.

The Irish Prison Service, Minister for Justice and Equality, Ireland and the Attorney General are notice parties to the proceedings.

The matter came before Mr Justice Michael Twomey who said he was satisfied, on an ex-parte basis, to grant Murray permission to challenge the governor’s decision.

The judge, following submissions from counsel, also placed a stay on what remains of the 40-day sanction period, pending the outcome of the action.

The respondents could return to court to seek to have the stay lifted on 48 hours’ notice to the applicant, the judge ruled.

The matter will return before the court after the new legal term commences in October.