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Freddie Thompson has started school in Portlaoise Prison, hearing over 'severe' jail conditions told

Thompson has brought a High Court challenge to conditions in the prison.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

CONVICTED KILLER FREDERICK ‘Freddie’ Thompson is allowed to have regular contact with four other prisoners and has started school at Portlaoise Prison, the High Court has been told.

Thompson has brought a High Court challenge over what he claims is the extremely oppressive and severe regime he claims he is being subjected to at the maximum security prison.

The 39-year-old from Dublin’s south inner city is serving a life sentence, which he received last year following his conviction at the Special Criminal Court for the murder of David Douglas in 2016.

Thompson is currently serving his sentence in Wing A4 of Portlaoise Prison, known as the punishment block, since March 2018.

He claims that his human rights are being breached because he is only allowed contact with two other prisoners, and spends most of his time effectively on “lock-up” in his cell.

He also claims that he is being denied regular exercise, fresh air and appropriate education, which also amounts to a breach of his rights and of prison rules.

Thompson has brought proceedings against the Governor of Portlaoise Prison, the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice aimed at ending his detention away from the mainstream prison population and obtaining better access to the prison’s facilities.

Urgent hearing

The action was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys on Wednesday’s vacation sitting of the High Court.

Thompson’s counsel, Padraig Dwyer SC, appearing with Keith Spencer Bl said that the action brought last month was urgent, and that he hoped it could be heard and determined as soon as possible.

John Gallagher Bl for the defendants told the court that a lot of the urgency had gone out of the case.

Counsel said Thompson had claimed that he could only associate with two other prisoners, but that number has doubled to four since the action was brought .

Counsel also said that Thompson had complained about his lack of access to the prison’s educational facilities. However, he started in the prison’s school when the new term commenced earlier this month, counsel added.

The judge, after giving directions on how the case should proceed, adjourned the matter to a date in October when it is hoped the full hearing of Thompson’s action can take place.

Suffering from depression

The court previously heard claims from Thompson that his situation is unbearable, that his mental health has been affected, and that he is suffering from depression.

He also claimed that prior to his move to Portlaoise prison, he had always been housed within the general prison population. He also claimed that he is being treated differently to other prisoners serving life sentences.

In correspondence to Thompson’s solicitors, the Governor and Irish Prison Service denied that his prison regime is oppressive, and the regime meets all the statutory requirements.

They say that Thompson has been provided with access to facilities including the school, gym, recreation, open-air exercise and other services.

They also say that Thompson requested to be relocated to Portlaoise and that he cannot mix with certain other prisoners due to security issues.

However, in a sworn statement grounding his action, Thompson said that he had been informally told that his move to Portlaoise was due to a perceived feud with another prisoner Brian Rattigan.

He said that, following his incarceration and before his transfer to Portlaoise, he met with Rattigan and said there was no issue between them.

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Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

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