Prisoner seeks to quash disciplinary sanctions

An inmate at a Dublin prison was strip-searched and had his privileges withdrawn for 60 days as punishment after prison authorities accused him of receiving prohibited material during a visit from his mother and partner, the High Court heard today.

The sanctions were imposed on Kenneth Ruth, who is currently a prisoner at Wheatfield Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin, following an unscreened visit from his mother and partner at the prison on January 21.

Ruth has denied any wrongdoing and in his High Court proceedings against the prison Governor and the State claims the punishment is in breach of his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The court heard that during the visit in January Ruth put his hand in his pocket shortly after holding his long term partner's hand.

Moments afterwards Ruth was removed from the visit by a prison officer, was taken to strip cell where he was held for four days, and subjected to a search, he claims.

Prison staff did not find anything untoward or illegal on Ruth during that search, he claims. An inquiry was then held by the prison authorities under Rule 76 of the 2007 Prison Rules.

He said the following day (January 22) a person known to him as Governor Frances Daly entered his cell and informed him that after looking at CCTV footage of the visit she was finding him guilty of the allegation, and the punishment was imposed.

Despite his denials of receiving anything from his mother, partner or any body else, he claims he was found guilty by the prison's authorities of breaching prison discipline.

He was also informed that his partner is not allowed visit him in prison.

On January 23, another prison Governor, William Connolly, put three CCTV stills on his bed and allowed him look at them for a minute. Mr Ruth says the photos did not show him receiving him anything from his partner.

During the 60-day punishment period, Ruth is not allowed telephone calls, access to the prison shop, evening recreation, and all his visits are screened.

Ruth claims the punishment was imposed on him in the absence of a proper disciplinary hearing, and the determination against him was unreasonable.

Ruth also claims he was never allowed see the CCTV footage, nor was he advised of his right to make a plea in mitigation.

The court also heard that his mother, a carer, and his partner a primary school teacher are both of good character.

In his proceedings, Ruth is seeking orders from the court quashing a determination by the Prison Governor on January 22 last that Mr Ruth breached prison discipline by receiving a prohibited article from another person.

He is further seeking orders quashing the Governors determination that Mr Ruth receive 60 days' punishment and that his partner is prohibited from visiting him.

He is also seeking declarations that his detention, and segregation into a strip cell for four days commencing on January 21 last was unlawful. Ruth further sought a stay on the punishment pending the outcome of the proceedings.

Leave to bring the challenge was granted today by Mr Justice Michael Peart on an ex-parte (one side only) basis.

The judge refused to grant a stay on the sanctions said that such an application must be made in the presence of the prison authorities. The Judge also made the matter returnable to a date next March.

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