Prisoner may serve more than average life term, court told


A Portuguese man serving a life sentence in Ireland for the murder of a female trainee manager in Limerick's Jurys Inn hotel would be as "free as a bird" after a maximum 25 years if he is transferred to a Portuguese jail, the High Court was told yesterday.

Patrick Gageby SC, for the Minister for Justice, said it was "not unreasonable" for the Minister to refuse the transfer upon taking the view that Paulo Nascimento might spend more time in prison here than the average 13½ years served by life-sentence prisoners.

Such a view was not unreasonable given what the Minister knew about the circumstances of Nascimento's offence, Mr Gageby said.

The Minister, he argued, was not setting a tariff in Nascimento's case, but was looking at the facts of the case and how it was proposed to structure Nascimento's sentence in Portugal if transferred.

He said the proposed sentence in Portugal would be backdated from the time Nascimento went into custody here, which was January 2002.

This meant Nascimento, after the maximum 25-year sentence had expired, would be "as free as a bird" in 2027, with no restrictions on him and no supervision post-release.

This contrasted with the situation where, if he served his sentence here, restrictions would remain on him after his release.

Nascimento would also be eligible for release in Portugal in 2018 after serving two-thirds of his sentence, 16 years and eight months.

It also appeared he was entitled to be freed once he served five-sixths of his sentence, 20 years and 10 months, meaning he would be freed in late 2022.

Mr Gageby was opposing proceedings in which Nascimento has asked the High Court to overturn the Minister's refusal of September 22nd, 2006, to permit his transfer to a Portuguese prison.

Nascimento (31), a former member of the Portuguese army, was given a mandatory life sentence in 2003 after he pleaded guilty to the murder of Gráinne Dillon (24), Glounthaune, Cork, at Jurys Inn in Limerick on January 5th, 2002.

The trial heard Nascimento had worked as a night porter at the hotel for just six days before the murder. He shot Ms Dillon after robbing €3,000.

He claims that as a "life" sentence in Ireland generally ranges from 12 to 15 years, the Minister's refusal to sanction the transfer is unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and in breach of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.