Terminally-ill prisoner wins case over temporary release

Ruling in favour of man who has brain cancer may have implications for other inmates

The findings by Mr Justice Donald Binchy in favour of Jonathan Heaphy could have implications for other prisoners in ill-health seeking temporary release.

The findings by Mr Justice Donald Binchy in favour of Jonathan Heaphy could have implications for other prisoners in ill-health seeking temporary release.

 

The High Court has ruled in favour of a prisoner with incurable brain cancer who brought a legal challenge over the manner in which his application for temporary release was handled.

The findings by Mr Justice Donald Binchy in favour of Jonathan Heaphy could have implications for other prisoners in ill-health seeking temporary release.

Heaphy (37), who in 2016 pleaded guilty to nine offences under Section 7 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010, was sentenced to seven years in jail, with three years suspended.

Mr Justice Binchy said Heaphy was entitled to a declaration in his favour concerning how his applications for temporary release in 2017 were handled. The wording of the declaration will be finalised later.

Heaphy, from Kerryhall Road, Cork, has undergone various treatments for his illness while serving his sentence.

After surgery in 2017, he applied for temporary release from Cork Prison to facilitate radiation and chemotherapy. It was claimed there was a reduced risk of infection to Heaphy if he was allowed a period of temporary release.

His applications were refused by the authorities on grounds including there was no evidence the level of care he required was not available in the prison.

Heaphy later brought High Court judicial review proceedings, seeking temporary release for the duration of his chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The action was against the Irish Prison Service, Governor of Cork Prison, Minister for Justice and Equality and the State.

Claims denied

Heaphy claimed the refusals were flawed because the Governor of Cork Prison had failed to refer a number of the requests for temporary release to the Minister for Justice.

It was also claimed the prison governor was making decisions in respect of the applications for temporary release when he had no power to do so. The claims were denied.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Binchy said the prison governor had acted outside his powers when handling the applications for temporary release. The governor usurped the statutory power of the Minister for Justice and acted in breach of natural and constitutional justice, the judge also found.

The judge, noting Heaphy is due to be released in early June, also rejected the State parties’ argument that the action was moot or pointless. His findings could have implications for other prisoners in ill health seeking temporary release, he noted.

Heaphy was entitled to a declaration in his favour, the exact wording of which will be confirmed later, he said.

Following the ruling, Heaphy’s solicitor, Michael Halleron, of Madden and Finucane, welcomed the decision. His client remains in custody, and his chemotherapy has finished.

Notwithstanding this, the issue raised in the case may not just affect his client in the future but prisoners generally who apply for temporary release on grounds of ill health, Mr Halleron said.