Prisoner loses €38k damages claim against Mountjoy riot squad

CourtsBy Sunday World
Jonathan Grimes leaving the Four Courts today
Jonathan Grimes leaving the Four Courts today

A 28-year-old Dublin prisoner, who claimed he was assaulted by a riot squad during an incident at Mountjoy Prison in October 2010, has lost a €38,000 damages claim in the Circuit Civil Court.

Jonathan Grimes, of Rutland Street Lower, Dublin, claimed he was beaten repeatedly with batons while the squad tried to regain order in the prison exercise yard, during what was described as a “very severe and extreme” situation, after a prison officer was assaulted.

Judge John Hannan today  was told that Grimes, who was at the time serving an assault sentence and is currently detained in Mountjoy Prison for an unrelated matter, had not been involved in the incident.

Grimes alleged he was assaulted by the riot squad as he was being pushed alongside other prisoners, while he was in a squatting position with his hands over his head. He claimed he was beaten on his head and body. 

Grimes, who was described as “the innocent in the yard who got caught up” in the incident sued the Governor of Mountjoy Prison, the Director of the Irish Prison Service and the State for personal injuries.  The defendants had denied liability. 

Barrister Conor Power SC, instructed by Dereck Elliott from the Chief State Solicitor’s office for the prison authorities, said his clients claimed they had acted in the safest and speediest manner.  They denied batons had been used and suggested the injuries may have been caused by shields when the squad was assembling the prisoners together.

The court heard that the incident had started around 7pm on October 14 in the A-wing, when a prisoner was refused admittance to the recreation area.  The prisoner had returned with some fellow inmates carrying cues and snooker balls and a prison officer was assaulted. 

The incident had escalated and the rioters had managed to arm themselves with improvised weapons, including broken goalposts, snooker and pool cues and balls and large pieces of concrete from a perspex wall which they had broken up. Some individuals had been wearing their clothes as balaclavas. 

The court was told that the yard was locked and officers from Cloverhill, Wheatfield, St Patrick’s and the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise had been called in reinforcement. 

Barrister John Nolan, for Grimes, said ‘control and restrain’ teams, wearing riot gear and backed up by Alsatian dogs, had entered the yard as an “army of Roman legionaries” and gathered all the 74 prisoners, involved or not in the riot, to one area.

Prisoners had then been taken one by one by prison officers, put to the ground and their hand were cable tight before they were examined by medical staff and taken back to their cells.

Mr Grimes had been taken to the Mater Hospital in Dublin the next day where X-rays revealed no fractures. He suffered soft tissue injuries to his arms and legs.

Judge Hannan said a very serious situation had developed and was dealt with in a very expedient and efficient manner.  He said the CCTV footage of the incident showed no evidence of excessive force having been used.

The judge said the defendants had found themselves in a situation where a number of people were out of control and there was a necessity to restore order. 

He said the operation had been carefully planned and properly executed, as the squad regained control in a couple of minutes.  The judge said that although he understood

Mr Grimes’ position, who was not at fault and had suffered minor injuries in a “terrifying experience,” he had to dismiss his claim.  He made no order regarding legal costs. 

The court heard that a total of 38 metal bars had been found in the yard after the incident. The culprits had not been prosecuted.