Former prisoner suing the state over ‘degrading’ slopping-out process

A former prisoner is suing the State over having to ‘slop out’ at Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison.

This is the first of several test cases to decide if the State is liable for damages to more than 800 prisoners over slopping out.

Former prisoner Gary Simpson says his human rights were violated, he experienced feelings of humiliation, degradation, and worthlessness, and his mental health was affected by the slopping out regime.

A psychologist will testify the conditions must have affected Mr Simpson’s mental health and there will also be evidence treating a person like an animal has a “brutalising” effect, James Devlin SC said. Imposing this regime on a prisoner such as Mr Simpson while he sought protection from other prisoners was regarded as particularly detrimental.

The slopping out regime was condemned in 1993 by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture which urged it be ended as a matter of the highest priority, counsel added.

While the State in 1995 said it accepted fully the concerns of the committee and would put in place a programme of in-cell sanitation, it said in 2008 that was not feasible but in 2010 altered that position and began a programme of prison refurbishment with a goal of single cell occupancy and in-cell sanitation, the court was told.

Mr Devlin, with Micheál P O’Higgins SC, was opening Mr Simpson’s action over conditions experienced while he was sharing a cell, designated as a single cell, with another prisoner in D1 wing in Mountjoy over eight months in 2013.

Mr Simpson was in Mountjoy after being sentenced to six years, with three suspended, for robbery offences. He sought transfer to D1 wing for his own protection because he felt vulnerable to attack from other prisoners.

His is the first of a number of test cases against the State to decide if it has any liability for damages over the regime.

The State denies any liability and the action, before Mr Justice Michael White, is expected to run for at least five weeks and will hear evidence from Mr Simpson and various experts on his behalf. The State has 35 witnesses but does not expect to call all of those.

Mr Devlin said his client was generally subject to 23-hour lock-up in D1 but sometimes only got out for less than an hour, or was locked up for longer before being let out. There was no in-cell sanitation and no running water and basins and other receptacles were provided for the prisoners to urinate and defecate into and for washing, he said.

Subjecting Mr Simpson to such conditions breached his rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights, including to dignity, private life and to not be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment, he said.


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