Mother of man killed in jail row over remote control awarded €3,000

Judge notes ‘very modest’ payment but says case would not have been successful in trial

The mother of a prisoner who died weeks after being assaulted by another inmate at Mountjoy Prison in a row over a TV remote control has secured €3,000 under a settement of her High Court action against the State over his death. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

The mother of a prisoner who died weeks after being assaulted by another inmate at Mountjoy Prison in a row over a TV remote control has secured €3,000 under a settement of her High Court action against the State over his death. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

The mother of a prisoner who died weeks after being assaulted by another inmate at Mountjoy Prison in a row over a TV remote control has secured €3,000 under a settement of her High Court action against the State over his death.

David Byrne (29), a father of one who was serving a six month sentence for larceny, was hit over the head with a sock containing two batteries by another prisoner who thought he had taken the TV remote control.

Mr Byrne was taken to hospital but was returned the same day to the prison at his insistence. He was found unconscious in his cell the following morning and remained in a coma for 25 days in hospital until his death on July 3rd, 2009.

On Friday, Simon Kearns BL, for Mrs Byrne, told Mr Justice Kevin Cross the case had been settled for a “very modest” sum of €3,000.

An expert report carried out by his side showed there was no intelligence that Mr Byrne was under any threat from other prisoners and it also found there was no evidence he was anything but a normal prisoner.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Cross sympathised with Mrs Byrne on the loss of her son. If the case had gone to trial, it would not have been successful, he also said.

Mrs Byrne, of Mariners Port, Sheriff Street, Dublin, had sued the State over the assault by the other inmate on her son in June 2009.

Precautions

It was claimed there was failure to prevent Mr Byrne from being assaulted and to take appropriate precautions to protect persons at or in the prison.

The claims were denied and it was pleaded there was no delay in coming to Mr Byrne’s assistance. It was also denied the assault was forseeable.

Six years ago, Alan Smith (34), with addresses at Ballybough House, Ballybough Road, and Buttercup Park, Darndale, pleaded guilty before the Central Criminal Court to the manslaughter of Mr Byrne.

The Central Criminal Court heard that, on the evening of June 9th, 2009, Smith hit Mr Byrne over the head with a sock containing two batteries because he thought the victim had taken the TV remote control.

Mr Byrne was seen by a nurse in a hospital A&E but insisted on being brought back to prison and also declined to see the prison doctor. After being found unconscious in his cell the following morning, he was taken to Beaumont Hospital where he remaied in a coma for 25 days before his death.

The late Mr Justice Paul Carney, who suspended the last three years of Smith’s sentence, said matters would probably have turned out differently had Mr Byrne not insisted on rejecting medical attention.