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Wallace and Daly back notorious, violent criminal Leon Wright

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Leon Wright
Leon Wright

A VIOLENT criminal has been cleared of assaulting a prison officer when he was searched for weapons.

Leon Wright (28) of Donore Avenue in Dublin 8 remained handcuffed and flanked by five prison staff wearing riot gear for his district court trial on Wednesday.

Wright, who claimed he was beaten by prison officers, was supported in court by Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly who took notes of the proceedings from the public gallery.

Clare Daly and Mick Wallace

After the defence raised questions over the credibility of prosecution witnesses and evidence, Judge Alan Mitchell said that having viewed the CCTV evidence in particular he was dismissing the case.

He also said that he was going to direct that the Court Service would prepare a copy of the digital audio recording of the hearing and that it would be offered to Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly in the event he would like to “take further action”. “I certainly have concerns in relation to this matter,” the  judge added.

In 2014, Wright, who has 84 previous convictions, including 30 assaults, four garda assaults, robberies and firearms offences, received a six year sentence with the final two suspended for stabbing two people in random attacks.

However, in his Dublin District Court trial yesterday he pleaded not guilty to a charge of assaulting prison officer Michael Kerr at Wheatfield Prison in Dublin on Oct. 7, 2013.

Officer Kerr alleged Wright produced an object from his back passage and stabbed him in the face cutting his lip.

He and two other prison officers said Wright became aggressive when told he was about to be searched. They denied that the defendant was beaten by several officers.

He was moved from the first cell because property was broken there and prison officers feared he had weapons, the trial was told. Witnesses alleged that Wright became more aggressive when told he was going to be searched after being initially compliant.

A nurse gave evidence that he saw lacerations inside and on the prison officer's lip and he said that from his experience it would have been caused by being cut with a sharp object.

Prosecution witnesses also said Wright lashed out. Prison officer Brian Hayes said he saw officer Kerr being struck with an object but he did not mention it in his statement to the investigating garda.

Defence counsel Emmet Nolan put it to prosecution witnesses that Wright was stripped and “given a hiding” which was denied. He asked the judge to note that CCTV footage showed four prison officers in riot gear outside the cell while four others dealt with Wright inside. He argued that it was not believable that they would remain outside the cell while their colleagues were being attacked.

The court also heard that Wright was exonerated of having a weapon or attempting to stab the prison officer during an internal investigation by the Governor.

He also asked the court to note evidence about Wright having his clothing removed for the purpose of a weapon search. He told the judge that none of the witnesses mentioned that he was bare chested when he was brought to the cell as could be seen on CCTV.

The court heard that another senior officer who had been forbidden by the prison authorities to be in the same area as Wright was present.

After Wright was cleared of the charge he gave two thumbs up to the two TDs, who had spoken to him before the trial. He was then taken out of the courtroom by prison officers.