A man who kicked and punched his Mountjoy prison cellmate to death has failed in an attempt to overturn his sentence of life imprisonment at the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Stephen Egan (aged 27), formerly of Belcamp Crescent, Coolock, killed 20-year-old Gary Douche, also from the Coolock area, after the two men had been placed in a holding cell with five other inmates on August 1, 2006.
Egan’s trial heard that he had been transferred to the basement holding cell, which contained just three mattresses, without the anti-psychotic medication prescribed to him at the Central Mental Hospital.
He was subsequently diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder.
Egan was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, after a two day trial in April 2009.
Counsel for the applicant, Mr John Aylmer SC, told the court that by imposing a life sentence, Mr Justice George Birmingham had effectively strayed in to the area of preventative detention.
Mr Aylmar said that Mr Justice Birmingham had paid undue regard to evidence given by Professor Tom Fahy during the trial, in which it was affirmed that Egan would be at risk of reoffending and violence if he were not kept under rigorous supervision.
He said that Irish law did not allow for a sentence, or any part of a sentence, to have an explicit and solely preventative aim.
In a lengthy judgement, the three judge court ruled that Mr Justice Birmingham had approached the sentencing matter correctly, thoughtfully and “even ingeniously”, and had worked out a type of sanction which was in the best interests of the applicant and of the community.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, sitting with Mr Justice Eamon deValera and Mr Justice Brian McGovern, said that a sentence of life imprisonment was possible on a manslaughter charge and that every sentence had a preventative element.
Mr Hardiman said that although Irish sentencing practice was completely against preventative detention, this referred largely to a person who had not been convicted of a crime, and the presumption of innocence did not apply in Egan’s case.
He said that Egan had committed a “very grave” offence, and even if the psychosis of the prisoner, or the required treatment for this psychosis, was not a factor, it would still require on a punitive basis a very substantial sentence.
He added that the unlawful killing of one prisoner by another was objectionable and a gross breach of a prisoner’s constitutional rights.
Mr Hardiman said it appeared that a proper determinative sentence would be “of a very great length indeed”, and that a successful application to overturn the sentence would likely accrue little benefit to Egan.