Brothers John and Desmond Dundon, both serving life sentences for murder, have mounted a legal challenge to being held in the segregation unit at the maximum security prison at Portlaoise.
Their counsel yesterday told the High Court the Dundons, along with Nathan Kileen, who are on a 22-hour lock up in “the block”, represent a considerable challenge for the prison authorities who day by day face a difficult job.
But Micheál P O’Higgins said that was no justification for not applying the prison rules.
He said there should not be any attempt to “seek to blacken our clients or to seek to paint them in such a way that one might be forgiven for overlooking the entitlements that all prisoners have, not withstanding their notoriety of the seriousness of their offences”.
Counsel was opening the legal challenge brought by the Dundons and Kileen, who are seeking orders that their continued detention in the segregation unit is unlawful and a breach of their constitutional rights. In their case against the prison authorities and the State, they also want the decision to put them in the segregation unit at Portlaoise quashed and the refusal of the prison authorities not to transfer them set aside.
They claim they have spent as much as 14 months in close confinement and the prison rules do not allow for “open ended, enduring” segregation and it is meant to be short term and an exceptional measure.
The State denies the claims and said the segregation is not punitive in nature.
John Dundon, aged 29, of Hyde Park, Limerick, was jailed for life last August after being convicted of the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan in 2008. Desmond Dundon is serving a life sentence for the murder of rival Limerick crime boss Kieran Keane in Jan 2002. Kileen, aged 22, also from Limerick, is serving a five-year sentence for violent disorder.
Mr O’Higgins said there was evidence before the court as to the impact segregation has had on the men. Desmond Dundon and Nathan Killeen, he said, have suffered considerable deterioration as a result of segregation and medical evidence showed they are displaying the symptoms of those being held in solitary confinement.
In an affidavit, solicitor Joseph Coonan said all three are detained in “the block”, a unit where the regime is extremely austere, involving the complete isolation from the rest of the prison population and the denial of recreation and education facilities.
The case continues today.
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