NewsCourts

Judge regrets that she can’t extend murderer's life sentence

Jeffrey Dumbrell
Jeffrey Dumbrell

A judge has said it is regrettable the law doesn't allow her to extend the life sentence of a convicted murderer who punched a prison nurse in the face.

Jeffrey Dumbrell (36), who was described by his barrister as a “notorious” criminal who last year was one of the most high risk prisoners in the State, punched the nurse as she was delivering his medication in Wheatfield Prison's maximum security unit.

His current jail sentence cannot be extended, prosecuting counsel Ronan Kennedy BL told the court, as “you can't make a sentence consecutive to a life sentence.”

The courts have ruled previously that a life sentence cannot be extended for new offending while in prison because technically a life sentence never ends. When life sentence prisoners are released it is on “permanent temporary release” meaning the sentence is still active.

Judge Leonie Reynolds said today/yesterday (THURS) the court would have extended the sentence if allowed and “it is a matter of some regret that the law doesn't allow for the imposition of a consecutive sentence.”

She said that because of this “Mr Dumbrell may feel he is at liberty to commit these offences.”

Judge Reynold's imposed a two year sentence which will run alongside both the life sentence and another sentence Dumbrell received for threatening to rip a prison officer's head off in 2014.

She said the attack was an “appalling act of thuggery against a medical professional going about her duties.”

She said that although she cannot extend Dumbrell's sentence, she has been assured the Parole Service will take the offence into account when assessing him for release.

The judge also said she was taking into account Dumbrell's efforts to rehabilitate himself. She was told he is now facilitating the Alternatives to Violence Programme in the prison and helping new inmates to integrate.

Dumbrell pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to Nurse Officer Donna Canavan on 19 July 2015.

Defence counsel John Berry BL said it would be easy to call the sentencing an academic exercise.

“But this is extraordinarily real for the victim in this case and for Mr Dumbrell,” he said.

Counsel said his client was a “notorious” prisoner and was judged to be one of the most high risk prisoners in the State. He was kept in an “extremely secure unit” with just one other “notorious” prisoner.

Mr Berry said Dumbrell decided last year that if he was going to preserve “any degree of sanity” he would have to rehabilitate and transfer to a less strict regime. He said he had since been moved into much less strict part of the prison which houses 125 other inmates. He had also begun education courses.

Counsel told Judge Reynolds that Dumbrell “has only the faintest hope of release in the distant future” when he goes before the Parole Board and he knows he must show he has made efforts towards rehabilitation.

Garda Kevin Molloy told the court that Nurse Canavan was accompanied by five prison officers as she brought Dumbrell his morning medication. She stood at the door of the cell, at arm's length from the prisoner when he lunged forward and struck her in the face.

She fell to the ground as Dumbrell was restrained and brought to an isolation cell. He did not resist the officers.

Nurse Canavan suffered severe bruising to her face and eye socket and missed six weeks of work.

She made a full recovery and did not wish to make a victim impact statement. She has since transferred to another prison.