Prison officers unaware of cell checks, inquest told
‘Vulnerable’ prisoner took his life while awaiting trial for murder of footballer
Shane Rogers who died on December 20th, 2011, in the cell following a remand hearing at Cloverhill District Court.
Prison officers who were on duty when a Co Monaghan man took his life in a courthouse holding cell said they were unaware of protocols demanding that they check on prisoners at least once every 15 minutes, an inquest heard.
Shane Rogers (32), Deery Terrace, Inniskeen, died on December 20th, 2011, in the cell following a remand hearing at Cloverhill District Court. He was awaiting trial for the murder of Crossmaglen GAA footballer James Hughes in Dundalk nine days earlier.
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that he was last checked shortly after noon, and 50-55 minutes elapsed before a prison officer returned to the cell at which point he was found to have taken his life.
A number of officers with the Prison Service Escort Corp (PSEC), which transports prisoners between the courts and jail, said they were unaware of a 2007 “standard operating procedure” which said all prisoners under escort in a holding cell or a Garda cell should be treated as under “special observation” and checked at intervals of a maximum of 15 minutes. “This order is to be strictly adhered to,” it added.
Prison officers Bill Murphy, Shane Moran and James Rogers said they did not know of the directive at the time, while George Finglas, assistant chief officer and supervisor on that day, said “at no stage did anybody inform me that Shane Rogers was a vulnerable or suicidal prisoner”.
Asked what system was in place for regular checks of cells, Mr Finglas replied: “There was no system.” Rather, prisoners were observed as cells were opened and closed in the ordinary course of business.
Prison governor Ronan Maher said an internal inquiry into the death had resulted in a number of recommendations, most of which have been introduced. These included the completion of two new cells in the courthouse with no ligature points, a development that was only achieved this month; and an improved warning system for vulnerable prisoners.
It was also recommended that a nurse officer be assigned to the PSEC, and “we would be expecting to get that as part of transformation” under the Haddington Road agreement. Management was also “still arguing” for cameras to be placed in vulnerable holding cells.
Earlier, Mr Rogers’ solicitor, Martin Crilly, told the inquest his client had asked him to draw up a will in the hours after the shooting. “I explained he was more or less giving me a suicide note, which was causing me a lot of difficulty,” Mr Crilly said.
The solicitor, who identified “a clear deterioration with Shane” in the 48 hours after the shooting, said his client was also concerned that his funeral expenses would be covered . Mr Rogers was very anxious to get across to the family of Mr Hughes “how sorrowful he was”.
The inquest was adjourned until December 13th for further evidence.