The Mick Clifford Podcast: Concern over way in which prisoner deaths being treated

The Mick Clifford Podcast: Concern over way in which prisoner deaths being treated

The body of a prisoner who died by suicide was dragged out of his cell in a highly inappropriate manner, according to a whistleblower in the prison service.

Assistant Chief Officer David McDonald says that he became seriously concerned about how deaths in custody were being treated when he witnessed the aftermath of the suicide in Portlaoise prison.

“The prisoner was dragged by his heels out onto the landing and when they were finished fixing up the cell they dragged him back in,” ACO McDonald told the Mick Clifford podcast.

“One of his runners came off and it was just thrown in a bin.”

The treatment of deaths in custody was one of a number of claims that Mr McDonald made in an affadavit he swore last year.

After becoming concerned about deaths in custody, he had liaised with former inspector of prisons Judge Michael Reilly about the matter over a number of years. In November 2018, when details of the affadavit were reported in the Irish Examiner, the Minister for Justice ordered an inquiry into the claims.

The inquiry report, compiled by the inspector of Prisons Patricia Gilheaney, was published last July and upheld most of McDonald’s claims.

The report noted that changes had since been made to how deaths in custody were treated.

Among the claims confirmed in the report were that McDonald’s unit in the service had engaged in illegal surveillance of prison officers who were suspected of bringing drugs into prisons.

The nature of the surveillance meant that other entirely innocent officers and some family members had also ended up having their movements tracked.

“We felt that what we were doing was of huge benefit,” McDonald told the podcast.

We were preventing crime, passing on high value intelligence. We didn’t stop to think whether what we were doing was illegal, but yes it was illegal.

Following publication of the report, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said a garda investigation into the illegal activity would commence.

In the report, there was some evidence that members of An Garda Siochana were aware of the illegal surveillance when it was being conducted.

David McDonald told the podcast that he has not been contacted by any gardaí investigating the matter.

He also said that he feels he has been targeted by management since making his disclosures.

In one instance, he was charged with breaching discipline over allowing a junior officer leave work early to attend to a pressing family matter.

The Irish Examiner published a story about the charge and later that morning he was informed that the disciplinary action was being dropped.

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