Prisoner in van rammed in attempted breakout sues over injuries

11 August 2022

A prisoner who was travelling in a prison van that was rammed in an attempted breakout last month is suing the State, alleging he did not receive proper medical treatment.

On June 15th, a prison van was transporting inmates from a court sitting in Co Monaghan to Wheatfield Prison when it was struck from behind by a gold BMW X5, bearing false number plates.

Gardaí believe the incident, which occurred N2 at Kilcrow, Clontribbet, in Co Monaghan, was an attempt by a criminal gang to free one of the prisoners being transported in the van. However the masked occupants of the car aborted their plan after hitting the van. The car, which had been stolen before the breakout attempt, was found burnt out a short time later.

The incident left both prison staff and prisoners with injuries. This week one of the prisoners, Darren Winters, was granted leave to take a judicial review against the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and the State after he alleged they had failed to properly treat his injuries.

Winters (24), from Cuirt Droim Ard, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, is serving a sentence for reckless endangerment.

He was one of a number of prisoners in the van and gardaí believe it is unlikely he was target of the breakout attempt. However, as officials are still unsure who the target was, all prisoners present on the day are now being transported under armed guard, sources said.

In a court filing, his solicitor Ciaran Mulholland, alleged Winters suffered a head injury in the crash and was only treated with ibuprofen. He alleged the prisoner was not allowed to see a doctor while the injured prison officers were taken straight to hospital.

According to a grounding affidavit, the prison van was hit by an “unidentified and untraced motorist” while Winters was seated in a confined cubicle in the back, handcuffed and with no seat belt.

Cut and swelling

He hit his head off the wall in front of him, leaving him with a cut and swelling. He was later brought back to the prison in a Garda van, where he asked repeatedly to see a doctor with no success, the affidavit states.

After Winters’s solicitor raised concerns with prison authorities, a prison official wrote to Mr Mulholland saying he had received the appropriate medical treatment.

According to a report from a doctor who examined Winters via video-link a month later, the prisoner said he was left in the prison van “for what seemed like hours on a very hot day”.

Winters told the doctor he later developed a terrible headache and suffered stiffness in his neck, which made it hard to move.

He requested to see the prison doctor three times but was refused, the report said. The examining doctor said a suspected head injury should be examined by a doctor, possibly using a CT scan.

“I would also note that while the prison guards, who were possibly restrained by seat belts, had to be taken by hospital by ambulance, the unrestrained claimant was not given the same consideration.”

Winters is seeking several orders including damages, a declaration his rights were breached and an order compelling the IPS to arrange for appropriate treatment.

“This is not an isolated matter. It’s magnified by the difference in medical treatment provided to prison staff and prisoners arising from the same event,” Mr Mulholland told The Irish Times.

“The substandard medical treatment provided to prisoners in custody warrants an independent review and is another reason why it’s imperative the Minister now establish a prisoner ombudsman akin to other EU countries. This is long overdue,” he said.

An IPS spokesman said it would not comment as the matter was before the courts.

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