Minister investigates claims convicted man was helped to dodge press cameras

The Limerick Court Complex in Mulgrave Street

THE Irish Prison Service (IPS) said it was compiling a report into an alleged security breach at Limerick Prison in which prison staff allegedly helped an offender avoid press cameras.

Members of the media were waiting outside Limerick Circuit Criminal Court on the day the convicted man was to appear in court.

A spokesman for the Minster for Justice Helen McEntee said she had “recently received a correspondence” from Independent TD Mattie McGrath “regarding an alleged incident at Limerick Prison”.

The spokesman added: “The Minister has asked for a report on the alleged incident from the Irish Prison Service, and will consider that report once received.”

Deputy McGrath’s letter, seen by this reporter, informs Minister McEntee that “several” sources contacted him alleging “a security breach” at Limerick Prison.

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Deputy McGrath stated in his letter that it was alleged that a convicted person who at the time was on bail “drove into a secure area of Limerick Prison car park” and “he then walked into a disused building which was previously used as a mess”.

Deputy McGrath’s letter stated that it appeared the man “was assisted and brought to a secure area in the court by prison staff in an unmarked private car owned by a senior member of staff”.

“This appears to me to be a misuse of the Limerick prison facilities and a complete disregard for procedures and rules when members of the public have to attend court in a completely different way,” wrote Deputy McGrath.

“When the case was over, he was again taken though the secure areas without authority and placed back into the senior management’s car and taken away from cameras outside the court that were waiting for him,” the June 1 dated letter alleged.

Deputy McGrath’s letter outlined his concerns that a “private vehicle was used to carry out a private escort onto the secure area of the courts” in order to shield the man from the public eye.

The Deputy also questioned whether the prison officer involved was carrying out the “private work while being paid by the taxpayer”.

He wrote that the State had to adhere to “constitutional obligations for justice to be done in public and be seen to be done in public”.

“These allegations should be investigated in full by an independent outside body and reported to An Garda Síochána,” he said.

Deputy McGrath also urged Minister McEntee “to order that all camera footage from Limerick Prison and Limerick Court House Mulgrave Street, for this date, be saved immediately before it is deleted from the prison car park and court cameras”.

A solicitor for the convicted man was not available for comment, and the convicted man himself could not be reached for comment.

An Irish Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed that the service has “been made aware of an alleged breach of security protocol at Limerick Prison, arising from correspondence received by the Department of Justice”.

“The Minister has requested a report on the matters detailed in Deputy McGrath’s letter and we are currently compiling a report on this matter,” she added.

When the Garda Press Office was asked if Gardaí were investigating an alleged security breach at the Limerick jail, a Garda spokesman replied: “Security breaches in prisons are a matter for the IPS. An Garda Síochána is not responsible for the security of Limerick Prison.”