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No extra time for locked up thug who bashed prison governor

Governor Ronan Maher
Governor Ronan Maher

AN INMATE, who repeatedly punched the governor of Cloverhill Prison during a vicious assault, has been given a three-month sentence with the final two months suspended.

Brendan Cummins, 22, of Lios Dubh, Armagh Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, has ten previous assault convictions and was not due to be released from his current sentence until the end of September at the earliest meaning he will serve no extra jail time for the attack.

He had pleaded guilty to assaulting governor Ronan Maher at Cloverhill Prison on Feb. 20 last. The offence is contrary to Section Two of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act which can result in a sentence of up to six months' imprisonment.

Det Sergeant Sean Cosgrove told Cloverhill District Court on Tuesday that the governor had gone to D-wing’s yard to speak to a prisoner. The accused started shouting at him and punched him the face three times, the court was told.

The case was adjourned until today for a victim impact statement and evidence of previous convictions to be given and for mitigation pleas to be heard.

Courtroom security was again heightened for the resumption of the proceedings. The accused was flanked by five prison officers in full riot gear and holding shields during the sentence hearing.

On Tuesday the prisoner had interjected when he thought the case may be adjourned for a week and he shouted: “I will not be coming back to court in a week, deal with it now.”

However, he sat calmly and did not address the court during the hearing.

Mr Maher came to court to give the victim impact statement and told Judge Kathryn Hutton: “Emotionally, I was not affected at all. It is part of the job, it comes with the territory but I still suffer pain in my neck”.

He said he gets twinges of pain if he moves his neck too much to one side.

Det Sergeant Cosgrove told the court that Cummins has 15 prior criminal convictions in total.

He said that 10 of his recorded convictions were for assault, three for minor Section Two assault offences but seven for Section Three assault causing harm charges.

He had one conviction for possession of an offensive weapon as well as another for burglary and a public order offence, the court was told.

In July, he was given a four-month sentence for assault causing harm, however, Det Sergeant Cosgrove said the sentence will expire in November and that Cummins’ earliest possible release date is Sept. 30.

In February 2014, he was given a three-year sentence by a circuit court for assault causing harm but that term has expired.

Defence solicitor Yvonne Bambury told the court her client had been on 23-hour “lock up” and was “subject to a difficult stressful regime”. He was getting about one hour of exercise a day.

She said he found it extraordinary difficult coping with solitary confinement. As a result of the attack he suffered a loss of certain privileges including phone calls and access to the shop, the solicitor said.

Finalising the case, Judge Hutton imposed a three-month sentence but suspended the last two months on condition Cummins keeps the peace for six months.