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Ireland's 'most dangerous' inmate had ear bitten and torn by Mountjoy prison officer

Concern has been expressed about treatment of the 28-year-old by prison staff.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE MAN WHO has been dubbed by the media as ‘Ireland’s most dangerous prisoner’ had his ear bitten and torn by a prison officer during an altercation in 2014, TheJournal.ie can reveal.

Concerns have been expressed recently about the treatment of 28-year-old Leon Wright by prison staff, after an allegation that he was “given a hiding” by prison officers during an incident in 2013 – an allegation the officers deny.

TheJournal.ie has now learned of a separate incident at Mountjoy prison in 2014 during which Wright sustained an injury to his ear in a tussle with an officer.  It is understood the inmate was being moved, escorted by riot squad prison officers, which is required whenever he leaves his cell due to his violent nature.

As they walked down a landing in a wing of the prison, Wright punched another prison officer who was not part of the escort party. In the ensuing scuffle, the prison officer bit into the prisoner’s ear as he wrestled with him on the ground.

“It was a significant bite to his left ear,” a source said.

After the scuffle was broken up, Wright was handcuffed and held down on the ground while a prison nurse sewed up the cut to his ear. It is understood a scar is still visible on Wright’s left ear over two years after the incident.

Complaints were made to gardaí against both Wright and the prison officer over the 2014 altercation.

Gardaí confirmed there was a full investigation into the incident and that a file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but no prosecution was directed against either Wright or the prison officer involved.

Wright was subject to a P19 disciplinary investigation as a result of the incident. This is normal procedure when an inmate is accused of breaching discipline,  for example, possessing a weapon or mobile phone, or threatening or assaulting another person in the prison.

History of violence

Wright has 84 convictions, including 30 assaults, robberies and firearms offences. He has racked up hundreds of disciplinary reports and is notorious for assaults on prison officers.

Back in 2007, the then 18-year-old Wright was jailed for 13 years for crimes including assault, threatening to kill gardaí and robbery.

Court reports at the time said health service and psychiatric assessments of the young man described him as having an anger that was so great it was uncontrollable. They said he had been extremely damaged by serious emotional and physical neglect as an infant and had a bleak future.

‘Given a hiding’

In October this year, Wright was cleared of an assault on a prison officer in Wheatfield Prison in 2013. He had been accused of producing an object from his back passage and stabbing the officer in the face, cutting his lip.

Defence counsel raised questions over the credibility of prosecution witnesses and pointed out that CCTV footage showed officers in riot gear remaining outside the cell during the time of the alleged assault on their colleague.

The court also heard Wright was stripped and “given a hiding” by other prison officers inside the cell with him. This claim was denied and the judge in the case made no finding on the issue.

The judge said that, having viewed the CCTV footage of the incident in particular, he was dismissing the case against Wright.

The 28-year-old was supported in court by Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly, who have said they believed his human rights have been breached. Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly was also examining the court case before he died last month.

Adverse incidents

Wright’s solicitor Ciarán Mulholland has also expressed “serious concerns” about the prison regime and “adverse incidents” experienced by his client while in custody.

In a statement, Mulholland said:

We have made several Freedom of Information requests seeking our client’s prison records and have repeatedly been asking the Directorate of Minister [a representative for the Minister for Justice] for a meeting, with our client present, to discuss the draconian detention without genuine efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate Mr Wright back into society. The reality is there are systematic flaws when it comes to the accountability of the Irish Prison Service that need to be addressed.

“When a young man being held indefinitely in solitary confinement for over three years is deemed acceptable by the authorities, there is something seriously wrong,” he added.

“We would call on the minister to review this highly unreasonable situation.”

The Irish Prison Service confirmed the incident. In a statement to TheJournal.ie, it said:

“On 30 August 2014 an incident occurred in Mountjoy Prison in which a prisoner struck a prison officer. Prison staff intervened and brought the situation under control. In the ensuing struggle the prisoner received an injury to his ear.

“Medical attention was administered locally. The prisoner did not require external medical treatment.  The incident was investigated by prison management and by An Garda Siochána.”

Read: Wallace and Daly back violent prisoner whose ‘human rights were breached’>

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