Douch died after litany of system failures

The violent death of a prisoner in Mountjoy Prison followed a litany of failures within the Irish prison system in the way the victim and his "vulnerable" killer were treated.

Gary Douch, 21, died on August 1, 2006, after he was brutally beaten by another prisoner, Stephen Egan, in a holding cell he was sharing with six other prisoners.

Yesterday, the Commission of Investigation released a long report into the killing which found Mr Douch’s death was avoidable and pinpointed overcrowding, poor mental health supports for prisoners, and other systemic failures as factors.

On the day before he died, Mr Douch told staff at Mountjoy that he feared for his safety. He was put into a basement holding cell used to house prisoners who needed protection from others. However, due to the significant overcrowding, six others were squeezed into the same cell for the night, among them the mentally ill Stephen Egan.

The commission found conditions for the men in the holding cells on that night were “appalling and unacceptable”. However it was also scathing about how the prison system had failed Egan in the months leading up to that night.

In November 2005, Egan had attacked a female prison officer during a prison transfer. The commission said that incident, which followed 17 moves between prisons in the space of two-and-a-half years and a number of violent outbursts towards officers and fellow prisoners, should have led to an assessment of his mental health.

A month later, he set fire to his cell and reported “visual and auditory hallucinations”.

Three months later, he was prescribed anti-psychotic medication, with a consultant psychiatrist recommending he be subject to “ongoing psychiatric review”. Egan was not seen again by the prison service psychiatric unit for another four months, when a GP requested an assessment. At the start of July 2006, he was put in the Central Mental Hospital, but nine days later he was — wrongly in the commission’s view — released. The report found that, despite where Egan had just been released from, the prison system treated him as a “potential security problem, rather than as a vulnerable prisoner with a psychiatric illness”.

It was just a few weeks later when, after yet another prison transfer, he was put in that cell with Gary Douch and five others. Egan is now serving life in prison for manslaughter with diminished responsibility.

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