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Justice Minister orders urgent report into 'disturbing case' of homeless man in Mountjoy

The man has been on remand in prison for over a year.

Image: Sam Boal

JUSTICE MINISTER CHARLIE Flanagan has ordered an “urgent report” from the Irish Prison Service into a homeless man who has been on remand in Mountjoy for over a year. 

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) said it is concerned about the current levels of people with mental health and other forms of disability in the prison system. The High Court heard yesterday that the man has been waiting for a trial for more than a year in the prison’s high-dependency unit despite calls for him to receive more residential care. 

Describing the case as “disturbing”, Flanagan said he expects to receive the report later today. 

“I have also spoken to the Governor of Mountjoy Prison. I intend to discuss the case as a matter of urgency with my Cabinet colleague Simon Harris,” Flanagan said in a statement his morning. 

“I am constrained in what I can say further as the matter is subject to court proceedings,” he said. 

It’s understood that the man was arrested in November of last year after he assaulted two security guards who approached him when he was sheltering in the women’s toilet of a Dublin shopping centre. He has been on remand in Mountjoy Prison since.

The High Court heard yesterday that the man’s bed linen in the high dependency unit of Mountjoy Prison was filthy and had not changed in months. The man was also described as having filthy feet and a rare nail disease.

The man’s solicitors were trying to have him made a ward of court after hearing that a plan by the central mental hospital for the man to move to a care unit was cancelled by a HSE administrative officer.

‘The effects of social policy failures’

Calling for a high-level task force to be established, the IPRT welcomed the announcement that Flanagan will be talking to the Minister for Health about this issue as “the lack of joined-up thinking across government departments is at the root of this problem”.

“The fundamental thing here is that no one should be detained in prison due to lack of housing, supported housing, or health care supports in the community,” Executive Director of the IPRT Fíona Ní Chinnéide told Morning Ireland. 

Prison is being used to warehouse the effects of social policy failures, and that has to stop. We are very concerned about the levels of people with mental health and other forms of disability in the prison system.

According to the IPRT, analysis of mental health issues in the prison system found that 16% of males on remand and 27% of men under sentence had mental health issues or mental illness. For women, this was higher with 41% of women on remand and 60% of women who are under sentence.

Comments have been closed as court proceedings are ongoing. 

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Adam Daly

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