Prison officer accused of assault fails to stop case

 

A PRISON officer has lost a High Court bid to stop a disciplinary hearing, relying on CCTV footage of him allegedly assaulting an inmate, on the grounds that would breach his data protection rights.

Barry Hayden, a chief officer at St Patrick’s Institution for young offenders, argued there should have been warning notices about the presence of CCTV cameras to avoid a breach of his rights under the Data Protection Act.

Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled yesterday that Mr Hayden’s case was “devoid of merit”.

Mr Hayden, who has worked in St Patrick’s for 24 years, denies he assaulted a 17-year-old remand prisoner on March 27th, 2010, in the exercise yard after the inmate allegedly disobeyed a direction from other officers.

Mr Hayden claimed he helped other officers to restrain the prisoner.

Mr Hayden, in a statement to an internal prison investigating officer, said he had seen the CCTV footage and that it seemed “my method of securing the inmate’s head appears unorthodox to say the least”.

At no time had he struck the inmate or caused any harm, he said.

The court heard the prisoner complained to gardaí that he had been assaulted but later withdrew the complaint.

Paul Green SC, for Mr Hayden, said despite the withdrawal of the complaint, the authorities had pressed ahead with the disciplinary inquiry and Mr Hayden had been suspended on full pay since May 10th.

Four counts of misconduct, including assault and using unnecessary force, were brought against him and he was told that one item of evidence was to be the CCTV footage, the court heard.

His solicitor wrote to the authorities saying the footage had been obtained and processed in breach of the Data Protection Act.

He had also asked that the footage be erased and said that evidence about the matter was available from other officers.

Mr Hayden brought the High Court judicial review proceedings against the prison governor and Irish Prison Service after he was refused an adjournment of the disciplinary hearing to allow him make a complaint to the Data Protection Commissioner.

Mr Green argued that to comply with data protection laws, a minimum requirement was to have warning notices in the exercise yard advising people that they were likely to be captured on CCTV.

Paul Anthony McDermott, for the prison authorities, said this must be one of the first cases in which a person was complaining that evidence had been kept rather than destroyed.

This was material which could vindicate Mr Hayden, yet he wanted it erased, counsel said.

In his ruling, the judge said one of the remarkable features of the case was that there had been a request to erase the video while a Garda investigation was going on.

He also noted that no complaint had been made to the Data Protection Commissioner.

The obligations of the prison authorities were to ensure that institutions are well run and it would be destructive of good order if any allegation such as this, whether against an inmate or a prison officer, was the subject of an inadequate or incomplete investigation, he said.