A prisoner is entitled to be considered for enhanced remission for good behaviour from a six-year prison sentence, the High Court ruled.
Edward Ryan Jr, aged 31, had been serving the term in Midlands Prison since May 2010 for possession of a firearm and ammunition and was released in July following another High Court ruling over remission rules.
However, he handed himself back to prison authorities a short time later after the Supreme Court ordered his rearrest as an incorrect legal procedure had been applied in seeking his release.
The Supreme Court said seeking his release under Article 40 of the Constitution was an inappropriate remedy and the application should have been brought through High Court judicial review.
Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley heard the judicial review matter last month and yesterday quashed the justice minister’s decision to refuse Ryan’s application for enhanced remission.
Ryan, with an address College Avenue, Moyross, Limerick, and his brother Kieran, pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court in 2010 to possession of a pistol and 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition. They are the sons of gangland figure Eddie Ryan Sr, who was shot dead aged 41 in the Moose Bar in Limerick City in November 2000.
In her judgment yesterday, Ms Justice O’Malley said the authorities had adopted an “impermissibly narrow” construction of a prison rule governing remission.
The judge was told that the minister will make a new decision on Ryan’s application this Friday.
The court heard standard remission is 25% off a sentence, which is enhanced to 33% off for good behaviour.
In the action against the minister, it was argued that Ryan had availed of all services and activities on offer within the prison, including attending the gym and woodwork workshop. The last disciplinary matter against him was two and half years ago and he had been “trouble-free” since, it was argued.
It was claimed the rule governing remission (Prison Rule 59.2) does not set out the precise criteria to be considered by the minister for enhancing remission.
In an affidavit, Martin Smyth, deputy director of operations in the Prison Service, disputed that Ryan had taken part in authorised structured activities, including the jail’s integrated sentence management service. He had not engaged with the probation services and had “extremely limited” engagement in educational services, said Mr Smyth.
In a review of his case last March, prison management said Ryan “is high up the chain within the Limerick feud”, Ms Justice O’Malley noted.
She said while there had been recent findings made in relation to remission by her High Court colleague, Mr Justice Max Barrett, she was going to treat his decision as persuasive rather than binding.
The Supreme Court, in finding that Article 40 of the Constitution was not the appropriate means of dealing with this issue, had not dealt with the facts and merits of this case, she said.
She was also unable to fully agree with another recent decision on remission by another colleague, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan.
She did agree with a third colleague, Mr Justice Michael Peart, in his decision in August in a case in which he found there was a lack of clarity in remission rules.
The decision to refuse enhanced remission was made on the basis of an impermissibly narrow construction of a rule that was intended to incentivise prisoners, she said.
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