A mentally ill man has been sentenced to life in prison at the Central Criminal Court for the manslaughter of his Mountjoy prison cellmate.
Stephen Egan (aged 25) of Belcamp Crescent, Coolock, Dublin killed 20-year-old Gary Douche, also from the Coolock area, on August 1, 2006. Egan had been transferred to the over-crowded prison without the anti-psychotic medicine prescribed to him in the Central Mental Hospital.
Egan stamped on Mr Douche’s head, punched and kicked his head repeatedly and then rubbed excrement on his face. He carried out the attack in a basement holding cell containing three mattresses, which the two men were sharing with five others.
A jury found Egan not guilty of his murder, but guilty of his manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility after a two-day trial in April.
Diminished responsibility is a partial defence provided for under the Mental Health Act 2006 and both sides had urged the jury to reach such a verdict in light of Egan’s diagnosed mental illness, schizo-affective disorder.
The circumstances in which both men came to be sharing the holding cell are the subject of an impending inquiry headed by barrister Grainne McMorrow.
Mr Justice George Birmingham yesterday (Monday) said that the sentence best calculated to protect the public was one of life imprisonment.
He said that although Egan’s responsibility was found to have been diminished, this was a special and exceptional case that could attract a life sentence. He said he had to consider the extent of the danger posed to the public.
The judge noted that Egan’s health was stable while taking his medication, but that he arrived in a dangerous state very quickly after coming off it.
He is not currently supervised taking his medication in the Midlands Prison but chooses to take it every evening. However he came off it for four days two years ago and noticed symptoms returning.
Mr Justice Birmingham also noted that alcohol, illicit drugs or stressful situations would bring back the symptoms. He noted Egan’s own admissions that most of his associates on the outside were drug users and that he would fall back into his old ways of drinking and doing drugs if released.
Egan described himself as institutionalised after spending much of his life in detention centres and prisons.
The judge said that if Egan’s condition were to improve, a parole board might be able to contemplate early release, but this would be well into the future. He said there would have to be rigorous supervision and indefinite re-incarceration if he did not comply with the board’s directions.
Mr Douche's family called on the authorities and the Minister for Justice to ensure a similar incident would never happen again. His sister, Eloise Douche, read a victim impact statement prepared by their mother, Margaret Raftery.
She said the prison system had failed to protect Mr Douche and that her brother’s senseless and unnecessary death could have been prevented. She said her family wanted reassurance that Egan would never get the chance to re-offend.
Ms Douche sobbed as she recalled her brother’s “cheeky smile and great sense of humour”. She said he was no angel but had ADHD. She said she hoped his death would not be in vain.
“This must never happen again,” she said.
Mr Justice Birmingham backdated the life sentence to the day of Mr Douche’s death, August 1, 2006.