Belfast Telegraph

Unlawfully segregated prisoner won't get damages

By Alan Erwin

A prisoner was unlawfully segregated for 48 hours following an attack on another inmate, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice O'Hara stated that confusion among staff at HMP Magilligan over bringing a disciplinary charge against David McAdams led to a breach in the rules.

But he dismissed further claims that the prisoner had suffered a violation of his human rights by being transferred from the resettlement unit onto a general wing.

McAdams, who is serving a sentence for an unspecified offence, issued judicial review proceedings over how he was dealt with in February.

He claimed to have been wrongly blamed for a prank played on another prisoner, Francis McCormick, while he was on home leave.

According to McAdams' account, he punched McCormick once in self-defence after having a mug of hot water thrown at him.

With police called in to investigate, the court heard McCormick was left with a badly swollen and cut face after the incident.

McAdams, who was in the low security Foyleview resettlement unit, was moved into a segregated supervision unit for 48 hours afterwards.

From there he was transferred to the general prison population, where he remains.

The court heard that a prison governor decided there were good grounds for believing McAdams attacked McCormick. But, unexpectedly, no disciplinary charge was brought.

The governor decided not to lay it because he may be required to conduct the hearing, and no other member of staff had witnessed the incident.

By the time the failure to lay a charge was realised it was too late. There must be exceptional circumstances to justify such a move after more than 48 hours.

Mr Justice O'Hara ruled: "Accordingly I conclude that the segregation of the applicant for 48 hours... was unlawful."

He said that this was "as a result of the confusion among prison staff which led to no charge being laid".

The judge added: "In all the circumstances no further remedy is required.

"Specifically, the award of damage in these circumstances would be entirely inappropriate."

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