Murderer found to have improvised knife in prison cell loses challenge

Gerald Dunne claimed weapon and razor blades ‘planted’ while he was on work duty

During a search of Gerald Dunne’s cell at Wheatfield Prison on November 7th, 2017, officers found an improvised knife under his mattress and a bag of razor blades on a shelf. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

During a search of Gerald Dunne’s cell at Wheatfield Prison on November 7th, 2017, officers found an improvised knife under his mattress and a bag of razor blades on a shelf. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A murderer found with an improvised knife under his prison cell mattress has lost a High Court challenge to his jail disciplinary hearing.

Gerald Dunne (43), previously of Rafters Avenue, Drimnagh, Dublin, was jailed in 2001 after fatally stabbing a man during a row which began over the use of a phone box. He killed Liam Thompson (20) of Woodlawn Park Grove, Firhouse, Tallaght, on January 27, 1999, at Dolphin Road, Rialto.

During a search of Dunne’s cell at Wheatfield Prison on November 7th, 2017, officers found the improvised knife wrapped in tissue paper under his mattress. They also found an almost full bag of razor blades on a shelf.

Dunne claimed the items had been “planted” as others had access to his open cell while he was doing prison work. He also claimed he did not use the shelf on which the blades were found and he could not reach the shelf. The prison authorities said the shelf was 4ft high.

An internal disciplinary process under Prison Rules took place and Dunne was found to be responsible for the items. The hearing was adjourned after he asked to be allowed to see CCTV of who had access to his cell.

Fingerprints

Through his solicitor, he requested that gardaí be brought in to investigate and that fingerprints be taken from the bag of razors. He also asked the evidence be preserved and the solicitor said Mr Dunne would fund that analysis if the prison service or gardaí would not examine it. The disciplinary hearing found against him and a sanction was imposed.

He brought an appeal, which was rejected because it did not state any grounds in relation to the original sanction. A further request for an appeal to the Minister for Justice was found to be made outside of the time limit.

Dunne brought a High Court challenge against the governor of Wheatfield and the Minister claiming fair procedures were breached by a failure to allow him examine the CCTV footage. He also claimed his rights as a prisoner were breached by the failure to transmit his appeal to the Minister.

Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan said Mr Dunne was undoubtedly correct in indicating there were conflicts in the evidence given by the assistant prison governor in relation to the CCTV evidence. She was satisfied that the footage did not in fact form part of the evidence against him and so was not captured by the prison rules legislation or previous case law.

In relation to the appeal to the Minister, the judge said although there was “clear confusion” about the appeal Dunne wished to process, she was not satisfied it was such that would warrant a finding of breach of fair procedure on the part of the prison governor.