A prisoner awaiting trial for attempted murder has claimed he is required to “slop out” in his cell in breach of his constitutional and human rights.
Paul Coffey (45), with an address at Lord Edward Street, Limerick City, has been held on remand in Limerick Prison since August of last year.
He is due to be tried for a single charge in March next year. He denies the attempted murder of a man who was shot and wounded in June 2020 at Watch House Cross, Limerick.
Mr Coffey points to the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision to award €7,500 damages to a former prisoner over the violation of his constitutional right by having to “slop out” in prison and endure “substandard” cell conditions over eight months in 2013.
Despite the court’s ruling, the parties responsible for his detention have “consciously and deliberately” placed him in conditions that breach his rights, he claims.
Mr Coffey claims he is detained for 17 hours a day in a single-person cell lacking proper sanitary facilities and must use a chamber pot as a toilet and empty it himself. He says he uses bottled water to wash his hands.
The situation breaches his right to dignity and protection of his person and his right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, he alleges.
The Governor of Limerick Prison and the Irish Prison Service are in breach of their duty to perform their functions in a way that is compatible with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, he claims.
Mr Coffey says he is entitled to damages, including aggravated and exemplary damages.
A compensation scheme established by the States Claims Agency provides for awards to prisoners whole were required to “slop out”. Mr Coffey says he, as the occupier of a single-person cell, is only entitled to damages of up to €2,500 under the scheme.
He has instructed his lawyers to apply for the scheme on his behalf, but he complains it does not distinguish between prisoners whose detentions predate the Supreme Court’s decision and those who have been incarcerated under such conditions after the ruling.
There is no effective remedy for prisoners required to “slop out” after the court’s ruling, from which point on the prison service and the State are consciously and deliberately breaching their rights, he claims.
He is asking the court to make a temporary order requiring the prison service to place him in a cell with proper sanitary facilities. He also wants the court to declare the prison conditions and the relevant compensation scheme breach his rights.
When the case seeking judicial review came before the court this week, Mr Justice Charles Meenan directed that the respondents be notified of the application for leave.
The court must give its permission for Mr Coffey to pursue his challenge, and the judge was not prepared to grant leave on this occasion without the other parties notified.
The case is against the Governor of Limerick Prison, the Irish Prison Service, the National Treasury Management Agency, the Attorney General and Ireland.