Former inmates challenge ‘slop out’ scheme exclusion

Two men take High Court cases over State decision not to compensate them

Mountjoy Prison: Malcom Pitt’s and John O’Brien’s applications were excluded from the ‘slop out’ compensation scheme on the grounds their claims were statute-barred.  Photograph: David Sleator

Mountjoy Prison: Malcom Pitt’s and John O’Brien’s applications were excluded from the ‘slop out’ compensation scheme on the grounds their claims were statute-barred. Photograph: David Sleator

 

Two men who claim they were forced to “slop out” when serving sentences at Irish prisons have brought High Court challenges over their exclusion from a State scheme to compensate prisoners who had to engage in the practice.

The separate actions have been brought by Malcom Pitt (42) who was committed to Mountjoy Prison from December 2010 until June 2011 and John O’Brien (28) who was in Cork Prison, Limerick Prison and Portlaoise Prison from March 2013 to July 2014.

Both men’s applications were excluded from the compensation scheme on the grounds their claims were statute barred.

The scheme was set up last year arising out of a Supreme Court decision in 2019 that deemed the practice of slopping out amounted to a breach of a prisoner’s constitutional rights to dignity and not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Mr Pitt with an address at Liffey Court, Clane, Co Kildare and Mr O’Brien, with an address at Mitchells Road, Tralee, Co Kerry, claim that while in the different prisons where they served their respective sentences they had to share a single cell, with at least one another inmate, where there was no in-cell sanitation.

Rights breach claim

Each morning they had to “slop out” and remove excrement in the cells.

This amounted to a breach of their rights, they claim.

They applied for inclusion in the State scheme, but both of their applications were refused because the claims fell outside the time limit allowed.

They claim their exclusion from the scheme on the grounds that their applications are statute-barred, means the State has breached its obligation to provide them with an effective remedy to what is an admitted breach of the former prisoners’ rights.

In their High Court judicial review actions, they claim the decisions were irrational, and there was a failure by the State to give meaningful reasons for rejecting their claims for inclusion in the scheme.

Time incarcerated

Represented by Darren Lehane SC and James Lawless in their separate actions, both men seek orders quashing decisions to exclude them from the Scheme of Settlement for compensation in respect of the time they were incarcerated.

They also seek a declaration from the court that their exclusion from the scheme amounts to a violation of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Both men have brought their actions against the Irish Prison Service; the Minister for Justice, Ireland; and the Attorney General.

In addition, Mr Pitt has sued the governor of Mountjoy Prison, while in his action Mr O’Brien has brought proceedings against the governor of Cork Prison.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission are a notice party to the actions.

Both cases came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday.

The judge, on an ex-parte basis, granted both men permission to bring their actions.

The cases will return before the court in January.