CoA dismisses rapist Michael Murray's appeal against prison sanction for throwing bible at judge

Coa Dismisses Rapist Michael Murray's Appeal Against Prison Sanction For Throwing Bible At Judge
In 2022 Mr Justice Charles Meenan dismissed Murray's action against the Govenor of the Midlands Prison over the sanction.
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High Court Reporters

The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court's dismissal of convicted rapist Michael Murray's challenge against a disciplinary sanction imposed on him by the prison authorities.

Murray lost ordinary privileges at the Midlands Prison for a period of 40 days for throwing a bible at a Judge during a sentencing hearing at the Courts of Criminal Justice in late July 2021.


At that hearing, Murray was given a 16-year prison sentence for making threats to the barristers who had prosecuted him, and for harassing others involved in his trial.

In 2022 Mr Justice Charles Meenan dismissed Murray's action against the Govenor of the Midlands Prison over the sanction.

The Govenor was "lawfully entitled" to discipline and sanction Murray in the manner which he did. Murray appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal.

In its judgement, the three judge COA comprised of Ms Justice Una NI Raifeartaigh, Mr Justice Donald Binchy, and Ms Justice Nuala Butler dismissed all but one of the arguments raised by Murray in his appeal.


The CoA said it was in agreement with the conclusions reached by the lower court in respect of the sanction imposed on Murray and was correct to dismiss his action in all but one respect.

The court did find in Murray’s favour in relation to the High Court’s refusal to refusal to recommend payment to the legal representatives under the legal Aid Custody Issue Scheme.

The CoA said it was prepared to allow the appeal on that issue only.

The action arose after Murray, aged 52 years, formerly of Seafield Road, Killiney in Co Dublin, was sentenced in July 2021 after being found guilty by a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court of threatening to kill barristers Dominic McGinn SC and Tony McGillicuddy SC.


He was also convicted of harassing Mr McGinn.

He was further convicted of harassing his former solicitor, and against a woman he was convicted of raping by advertising them online as prostitutes.

Murray had denied the charges.

Murray was excluded from the sentencing hearing, and moved to another courtroom to watch proceedings via a video link, after he threw a bible, narrowly missing Judge Karen O'Connor.


Murray was convicted in 2013 of the rape and sexual assault of a woman whose child he abducted.

He made the threats to the parties on dates between late 2014 and early 2015, while he was serving the 19-year sentence he received for rape.

A complaint about his conduct at the hearing was made to the Governor of the Midlands Prison, where he was incarcerated.

Following a disciplinary process, Murray received a sanction from the Governor, which involved of a loss of ordinary privileges within the prison, including restrictions on his recreation time, visits and phone calls.


In his judicial review action against the Governor, where the Irish Prison Service, Minister for Justice & Equality, Ireland and the Attorney General Murray, were notice parties

Murray claimed that the Governor was not entitled to impose such a sanction on him.

He claimed that the sanction could not be imposed as the alleged misconduct was committed while he was in the custody of the court, and not of the prison authorities.

The prison authorities lacked the power to impose a sanction on a prisoner for any breach of the 2007 Prison Rules Act or discipline when that person is in the custody of the court, he also alleged.

Any such breach could only be dealt with by the presiding judge by way of a finding of contempt of court, it was further claimed.

The claims were denied.

In his judgement Mr Justice Meenan said that at the relevant time Murray was in lawful custody outside of the prison and came within the legal definition of a prisoner within the 2007 rules.

Murray appealed that decision and argued the High Court had erred in its findings.

Giving the CoA’s decision Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh said that the court was in no doubt that at all times in the custody of the Governor at the sentencing hearing.

The CoA did not accept and was “unpersuaded” by Murray’s “important keystone” argument that he was in the custody of the court at the time of the book throwing incident.

The court added that it did not accept the novel proposition that there is a concept of judicial custody into which a prisoner passes when physically present in a courtroom.

The Governor, the CoA concluded, was “within jurisdiction” and had acted in accordance with the prison rules when the sanction was imposed.

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