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jail horror 'Vicious' attack by inmate had devastating impact on prison officer's mental health


Mountjoy Prison

Mountjoy Prison

Mountjoy Prison

An inmate who assaulted a prisoner officer as he was being taken to be searched after being observed ingesting something in his cell has been jailed for 15 months.

Gary O'Brien (32) entered a guilty plea on the basis that he had not intended to cause an injury to the prison officer who sustained a broken finger during the incident.

O'Brien, of Rathmines Avenue, Rathmines, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting prison officer John Cullen at Mountjoy Prison on August 27, 2016.

In his victim impact statement, which he read before the court, Officer Cullen said he needed two surgeries following the incident and has a steel fixer drilled into his hand.

Officer Cullen said the “vicious” assault had a devastating effect on his mental health.

He said that “due to this thug's unprovoked, cowardly assault” he had lost a massive amount of mobility in his finger.

He said he had previously been a keen guitar player but that was now in the past.

O'Brien has 55 previous convictions, including convictions for assault causing harm, assaulting a peace officer, robbery, burglary and production of an article in the course of a dispute.

The court heard O'Brien was observed ingesting something and was unsteady on his feet following a search of his cell. He was resisting while being brought to the reception area by staff including Officer Cullen and acting in a very aggressive fashion.

“No one will search me,” O'Brien told staff during an altercation which was physical and verbal. Officer Cullen sustained the injury to his hand while attempting to assist a colleague.

Judge Karen O'Connor noted the incident had a “life altering” effect on Officer Cullen.

She said a prison officer's work was difficult and they should not have to be subjected to this kind of behaviour in the course of carrying out their lawful duties.

She noted in mitigation that O'Brien was deeply ashamed and apologised for the incident. She took into account that it was accepted that there was not an intention to cause injury.

Judge O'Connor noted O'Brien's psychological report refers to unresolved issues in his background but outlines he is motivated to address his problems and live a different life.

She imposed a sentence of two years and three months but suspended the final year for 18 months on condition, including that he undergo probation supervision, do offence-focused and substance misuse work and attend an anger management program.

Michael Hourigan BL, defending, said his client's own circumstances were “appalling” growing up and that his slide into criminality began with the death of his mother in 2008. He said his instructions were that his client is deeply ashamed and apologetic for his actions.

The court heard that Officer Cullen does not accept this apology.

Online Editors