A "notorious" murderer will not spend any extra time in prison for threatening to rip the head off a prison officer due to a legal anomaly.
Jeffrey Dumbrell (aged 35), who is serving a life sentence, was being held in a high security segregation unit at the time but has since moved to a wing with a number of other prisoners and hopes someday to rejoin the general prison population.
He was sentenced to three and a half years for the threat today. However because he is serving a life sentence, which is indeterminate, the new sentence will run concurrently with it.
The courts have ruled previously that a life sentence cannot be extended for new offending while in prison because technically a life sentence never ends. When life sentence prisoners are released it is on “permanent temporary release” meaning the sentence is still active.
However the new offending can be taken into account by The Parole Board when it assesses his suitability for release.
Dumbrell, formerly of Emmet Road, Inchicore, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making threats to kill a prison officer at Wheatfield Prison on December 10, 2014. He has 10 previous convictions including murder, assault and larceny.
Judge Karen O'Connor said it was a serious threat and she had no doubt that the prison officer took it seriously.
She said Dumbrell “storming into the room” in such an aggressive manner would have been frightening and noted that the victim constantly has “one eye looking over his shoulder” during his work now.
“Prison officers would not be unaccustomed to some form of abuse as part of their working day,” the judge said and added that she would imagine they are “more robust” than reporting every incident of “verbals” from inmates.
She said prison officers cannot be allowed to be threatened in such a serious manner during their lawful working day.
“They have to be protected from this type of behaviour. It has very serious implications for society were they not protected,” Judge O’Connor said.
She said she was taking into account the fact that Dumbrell’s early plea meant that the officer knew he wouldn’t have to give evidence at trial, which she said would have been particularly difficult and “added to his trauma”
Garda Stephen Cullen told Ronan Kennedy BL, prosecuting, that the prison officer was in an office in the segregation unit when Dumbrell stormed in. Dumbrell tried to pick up a chair but was prevented from doing so and was very aggressive towards the prison officer.
He told the man: “If you ever get smart with me through the gate, I will rip your fucking head off.” The incident lasted about one minute before Dumbrell left the office.
The following day there was another verbal exchange after the prison officer noticed Dumbrell pacing in the recreation area in an agitated state.
The prison officer said he would take any threats from Dumbrell very seriously. He said he felt stressed and was looking over his shoulder ever since. He felt his life was in danger.
The court heard the prison officer did not wish to attend court or complete a victim impact statement.
Gda Cullen agreed with John Berry BL, defending, that Dumbrell was a “notorious prisoner.”
He agreed that until recently Dumbrell and one other prisoner had been held in an “extra high security unit” manned by a group of dedicated prison officers in Wheatfield Prison.
He agreed that in the time since this incident Dumbrell had been offered a path to a more “relaxed” regime and he was now in a closely controlled and monitored wing with up to eight other prisoners with a view to maybe someday rejoining the general prison population.
Mr Berry said he was instructed that the guilty plea was motivated by remorse and Dumbrell's desire to show he was capable of change. He submitted that Dumbrell had shown signs of progress.
He said his client had for a long time been in something akin to solitary confinement but now found that by co-operating with the prison authorities he was in a far better situation and hoped his high security status would be reduced in the years ahead.
Mr Berry noted Dumbrell would come before the sentence review group at seven-year intervals and said he wanted to start putting in place the building blocks of a better future.
He asked the court to structure a sentence to show Dumbrell that what he had done was worthy of commendation and that his current path was far more advantageous to him.