Remand prisoner claims he was denied right to make a phone call

The man claimed he was refused to contact his solicitor by phone
Remand prisoner claims he was denied right to make a phone call

The High Court will hear the action in which a remand prisoner claims he was denied the right to make phone calls to his solicitor. File Picture.

A remand prisoner at a Dublin jail has brought a legal action claiming he was denied his right to make phone calls to his solicitor.

The man has claimed the authorities at Cloverhill Prison refused to allow him to contact his solicitor Aonghus McCarthy by phone.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr granted him leave to issue judicial review proceedings against the governor of the prison following an ex parte application (one side only represented) at the High Court.

The court heard the prisoner was arrested on July 1 last, charged and denied bail, and was remanded to Cloverhill.

He claims while in custody, he was wrongfully refused permission to have his solicitor added as a person on his prison telephone card to allow him make the calls.

In affidavits, the prisoner alleged he was told Mr McCarthy had not provided a phone number and had not consented to receiving calls.

The applicant is seeking declarations from the court that he has been denied his right to reasonable access to his solicitor, that his constitutional right to access to legal advice has been denied and that the respondent is compelled to put in place a system allowing him to make telephone contact with his solicitor.

He is also seeking damages and costs.

Mr McCarthy said in an affidavit he had never been asked to indicate his willingness to accept calls from a client. He said he wrote to the governor of Cloverhill in July and August confirming his firm’s willingness to receive calls from the applicant.

At the request of the court, a supplemental affidavit from Mr McCarthy was filed, stating that there had been two physical visits to the prison and three video link consultations with the prisoner between July 1 and September 25.

Mr McCarthy said visits and video links had to be requested by a solicitor and booked, and the only way a prisoner had to initiate contact was by phoning the solicitor.

The court heard a prison official stated in an email that the applicant made no request to put Mr McCarthy’s number on his phone card.

Mr Justice Barr said reasonable access to legal advisors was a “fundamental right” of all accused. The application as first presented to the court made no mention of the physical and video consultations. This was an “extraordinary omission” that did not give a “fair and complete picture," he said.

Mr McCarthy as an experienced solicitor “knows the duties that arise” in such applications, the judge said.

He was tempted to refuse the application on this basis but said that would “work a considerable injustice” on the applicant. The case was adjourned to October 20.

The judge said the applicant must bear his own costs for the ex parte application.

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