Rapist’s €225 award for prison officer assault increased to €17,225

Darius Savickis put in headlock and punched three or four times while in Castlerea Prison

 

A rapist who was “clearly” assaulted by a prison officer while serving his sentence has had a €225 award of damages made to him by a jury increased to €17,225 by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said some of the Castlerea Prison officers who gave evidence in the jury civil action taken by Darius Savickis had, regrettably, “told lies”.

One officer described CCTV evidence, in which Savickis was clearly punched three or four times, as the officer “putting his hand in two or three times to remove (Savickis’) clothing,” the judge said.

The incident occurred while Savickis (46), a father of two originally from Lithuania, was serving a six-year sentence after pleading guilty in July 2009 to orally raping a 23-year-old German woman walking home from work in Galway on November 28th, 2005.

A few months into his sentence in Castlerea Prison in Roscommon, he was involved in an incident in which he refused to go out to the exercise yard because he was not wearing socks or a jumper.

He held on to a rail and a prison officer put him in a headlock while four or five other officers moved in and prised him from the railings to totally subdue him.

Mr Justice Hogan said it was clear from the CCTV evidence that Savickis did not attempt to strike out at the officers but did no more than cling to the railing.

It was clear, as he was being subdued, he was struck some three or four times with punches to the chest by a particular officer, the judge said.

In Savickis’ High Court action, the jury rejected the majority of his claims but found unreasonable force was used by the officers. It concluded Savickis was 95 per cent responsible with the result a €4,500 award made to him was cut to just €225.

He appealed arguing the jury findings were essentially perverse and unsupported by the evidence. The prison authorities and the State opposed the appeal.

Mr Justice Hogan, with whom his two appeal court colleagues agreed, found Savickis had been assaulted and awarded him €10,000. He awarded an additional €5,000 exemplary damages for reasons including that prison officers who gave evidence in the case repeatedly denied he had been punched even when the CCTV evidence was shown to them.

“It is, I regret to say, very difficult to avoid the conclusion that some of the witnesses tendered by the State told lies regarding this matter in the course of their evidence”, the judge said said. This was conduct the court should not tolerate for an instant, he added.

Noting the jury found failure to adequately train officers in control and restraint techniques, the judge said their €4,500 award in relation to this was not an inappropriate figure to compensate him for the injuries he suffered while being restrained, apart from those inflicted on him by the assault.

The judge disagreed with the jury finding that Savickis was 95 per cent liable and instead found him 50 per cent responsible for refusing to obey the instruction to go out to the yard, bringing the award to €2,225.

In total, the appeal court awarded him €17,225.

In a separate concurring judgment, Ms Justice Mary Irvine dealt with a part of Savickis’ appeal relating to his later removal from one cell to another while he was naked. The prison authorities said he was offered a blanket or poncho during the move but he refused but he disputed this.

While it was worrying and disturbing any prisoner should be moved in a state of undress, there was, on the particular facts of this case, ample evidence upon which the jury was entitled to find the authorities did discharge their duty in this regard, she said.