Ex-prisoner seeks damages over Mountjoy ‘slopping out’ regime

Court to rule whether State liable after man claims rights violated by lack of cell sanitation

There was no in-cell sanitation and no running water but basins and other receptacles were provided for prisoners  to urinate and defecate into and for washing, the court heard.

There was no in-cell sanitation and no running water but basins and other receptacles were provided for prisoners to urinate and defecate into and for washing, the court heard.

 

The High Court is due to rule this week on the first of several test cases to decide if the State is liable for damages to more than 800 prisoners over “slopping out”.

The case by former prisoner Gary Simpson is the first of a number of test cases against the State to decide if it has any liability for damages over the regime, under which prisoners had to use and empty chamber pots as they had no in-cell sanitation. The State denies any liability.

Mr Justice Michael White is due to give judgment on Wednesday.

In his action, Mr Simpson claimed his human rights were violated, he experienced feelings of humiliation, degradation and worthlessness and his mental health was affected over enduring the slopping out regime in Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison.

The slopping out regime was condemned in 1993 by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture and was also criticised in a range of reports, including by the State’s Inspector of Prisons. A report by the Thornton Hall Review Group addressed the impact of such conditions on prospects of rehabilitation.

The State in 1995 said it accepted fully the concerns of the committee and in 2010 began a programme of prison refurbishment with a goal of single cell occupancy and in-cell sanitation.

Mr Simpson, represented by senior counsels James Devlin and Mícheál P O’Higgins, sued over conditions experienced while sharing a cell, designated as a single cell, with another prisoner in Mountjoy’s D1 wing over a period of some eight months in 2013.

The judge was told Mr Simpson lost his mother at an early age, developed problems with alcohol and became homeless at 16.

He was in Mountjoy as a result of being sentenced to six years, with three suspended, for robbery offences. He sought the transfer to D1 wing for his own protection because he felt vulnerable to attack from other prisoners.

Mr Simpson, the court was told, was generally subject to 23-hour lock up in D1 but sometimes only got out for less than an hour or was locked up for longer before being let out.

There was no in-cell sanitation and no running water but basins and other receptacles were provided for prisoners to urinate and defecate into and for washing, the court heard.

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Mr Simpson had particular difficulty defecating into such receptacles and would generally do so into a newspaper he would then wrap up in a plastic bag. Because there was no proper in cell facility for washing hands after urinating or defecating, that created considerable risk of infection, it was claimed.

Urine and faeces would have to be disposed of by prisoners in the slopping out area and some prisoners would urinate in sinks in that area designated for washing. Prisoners on D1 wing also had to eat their meals in the cell.

It was claimed Mr Simpson felt low self-esteem as a result of the slopping out regime and experienced feelings of anger, humiliation and a “sense of worthlessness”.