DPP to review decision over alleged perjury by prison officers

Review sought by convicted rapist who was assaulted while serving a six-year sentence

 

The Director of Public Prosecutions has agreed to review his refusal to prosecute prison officers for perjury concerning an incident in which a convicted rapist was assaulted in custody, the High Court has heard.

Because the DPP only agreed by letter last month to conduct that review, seven months after Darius Savickis initiated legal proceedings seeking review, Savickis is entitled to his costs of the proceedings against the DPP, Mr Justice Charles Meenan ruled.

When Savickis initiated his case last May, the DPP could have sent his letter then, which would have ended the case, but that did not happen and, instead, the court dealt with pre-trial matters and fixed a hearing date for December 7th, he said. However, on November 20th, the DPP sent a letter which conceded the “whole point” of the case.

Earlier civil proceedings by Savickis seeking damages over the assault were relevant because the High Court and Court of Appeal, “at the very least”, voiced uneasiness and discomfort about some of the evidence given by prison officers, he said.

Savickis’s case was also against the Garda Commissioner, who strongly disputed claims a Garda investigation into the alleged perjury was inadequate. Mr Justice Meenan said Savickis was not entitled to costs against the commissioner, and those two parties should bear their own costs of that aspect of the case.

Walking home

Originally from Lithuania, Savickis (47) was assaulted by a prison officer while serving a six-year sentence for orally raping a 23-year-old German woman when she was walking home from work in Galway on November 28th, 2005.

In 2016, he was awarded €17,225 by the Court of Appeal over what Mr Justice Gerard Hogan described as a “clear” assault on him by an officer in Castlerea Prison. It was very difficult not to conclude some of the prison officers who gave evidence in Savickis’s earlier civil action before a High Court jury “told lies”, Mr Justice Hogan said.

The jury had awarded Savickis €224 after rejecting most of his claims but finding unreasonable force had been used by the officers. Attributing 95 per cent responsibility to Savickis, the jury reduced its award from €4,500 to €224.

He appealed and the Court of Appeal found he was assaulted and awarded him €10,000, plus €5,000 exemplary damages over the evidence given by the prison officers and €2,225 over the use of unreasonable force.

Last May, Siobhan Phelan SC, for Savickis, applied to the High Court for permission to bring judicial review proceedings against the DPP and Garda Commissioner over the DPP’s March 2017 decision not to prosecute the prison officers for perjury.

Irrational

Among the claims were the refusal was irrational and the DPP failed to give adequate reasons for it as required under a 2015 EU directive on victims’ rights.

The High Court directed the leave application be heard on notice. That was ultimately listed for Thursday, when Ms Phelan told Mr Justice Meenan it was not going ahead in light of the DPP’s November 20th letter and sought her side’s costs.

Sunniva McDonagh SC, for the DPP, said each side should pay their own costs. The Director was not a party to the civil case, his role was to independently review whatever evidence arises in the context of possible criminal prosecution, and the DPP also disputed the Victims’ Directive directly applied to this case, she said.

Without prejudice to his argument gardaí cannot be sued over conduct of an investigation, counsel for the Garda Commissioner said his side strongly disputed claims of an inadequate investigation into the alleged perjury and had provided a sworn statement outlining the steps taken in that investigation. Prison officers had declined to make statements, he noted.

He agreed a sworn statement on behalf of Savickis had complained a digital audio recording of evidence of two persons had not been obtained.