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Thug who held Afghani man captive during prison riot handed more jail time

Cloverhill Prison
Cloverhill Prison

A convicted robber who was one of eight inmates involved in a jail riot during which a fellow prisoner was held hostage has been sentenced to four and half years in prison.

Thomas Lennon (24) and seven others caused €33,748 worth of damage to the prison and 11 prisoners were hospitalised following the incident.

A 21-year-old Afghanistan inmate, who was held captive, was punched, kicked and stabbed with a broken piece of Perspex. He was later treated for superficial cuts to his face, hands and arms but gardaí accept Lennon didn't stab him.

Lennon of Derry Park, Crumlin, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to violent disorder, false imprisonment, assault causing harm and criminal damage at Cloverhill Prison on July 29, 2015.

Garda Donal Daly told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting that during the riot Lennon was heard threatening to “jab” any staff member who came into the yard and after taking the prisoner hostage shouted; “You think Isis are bad? We are going to behead him”.

Gda Daly said riot officers were ultimately called in and the captured inmate “made a break”.

A female prison officer who became isolated during the riot was kicked and forced to the ground. Lennon was captured on CCTV kicking this woman.

Lennon was on remand awaiting sentence for robbery at the time. He received a three year term for this offence in December 2015 and had been due for release in May 2018. He has 34 other previous convictions.

Judge Melanie Greally imposed concurrent sentences totalling four and half years, which she said must be consecutive to the term he is currently serving. The final 18 months of the sentence was suspended on strict conditions including that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for four years upon his release.

The judge described the offence as “wanton destruction and violence” which was targeted towards the prison officers and the property in Cloverhill.

She said the assault, which she said had racial undertones, was terrifying for the man and added that members of the prison staff were exposed to very direct physical danger.

Olan Callanan BL, defending told Judge Greally that his client had asked him specifically to apologise for his behaviour towards the victim.

Counsel said having viewed the footage of the riot; Lennon said he was ashamed of himself and his actions.

“I am disgusted with myself over this. The other offences were to feed my cocaine addiction. There is no reason for this and I am sorry,” said Lennon.

Mr Callanan said Lennon left school at the beginning of fifth year but previous to that had done really well in school and had been selected to go on a student delegation to the European Council in Strasbourg.

He then started to hang around his old housing estate and started to abuse cocaine. By the time he was 17 he abused drugs daily and began to commit crime to get money to fund his habit.

Counsel said Lennon had spent all bar six months of the last six years in custody.


ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE

The riot began in the exercise yard of the B wing in Cloverhill at 11.15am when the goalpost were forcibly removed by a number of prisoners. The posts were then used to break the windows of a secure office which prison guards used as a vantage point to monitor the prisoners while on the yard.

Prison staff left the office, fearing for their safety and secured the door behind them leaving the yard sealed off with all CCTV cameras focused on it. The governor then arrived and remained behind turnstiles at the yard with other prison officers to try and ascertain what the issue was.

Lennon used the goalposts to unhook razor wire from the roof of the office before wrapping it around the turnstiles, telling staff he was “going to wreck this fucking place”. Two prisoners tried to climb onto the office roof but were discouraged by the use of a hose.

A negotiator was called in and some prisoners, who were sick and needed insulin, were allowed to leave the yard while Lennon shouted that if two specific officers were sent over the riot would come to an end.

The prisoners then took a hostage. He was stabbed with a shaved piece of curved Perspex and kicked and punched a number of times. Lennon didn't stab the man but did assault him. He was also at one point caught on CCTV cleaning blood off the victim's hand.

Lennon was arrested in January 2016 but he made no admissions during the subsequent garda interview.