Man who es­caped from Shel­ton Abbey faces re­turn to jail


Bray People - - NEWS -

A man who es­caped from Shel­ton Abbey and was at large for al­most five years, dur­ing which time he col­lected so­cial wel­fare and fa­thered a child, faces ar­rest and a re­turn to prison to com­plete his sen­tence.

Mark Fin­negan, whose fam­ily home is in Job­stown in Tal­laght, was con­victed in Novem­ber 2008 of al­low­ing him­self be car­ried in a me­chan­i­cally pro­pelled ve­hi­cle with­out the con­sent of the owner. He was sen­tenced to 16 months im­pris­on­ment on May 27, 2009, the first two months of which were spent in Wheat­field prison at which point he was trans­ferred to Shel­ton Abbey open prison.

He es­caped from Shel­ton Abbey on Oc­to­ber 31, 2009, and re­mained un­law­fully at large un­til his ar­rest in Novem­ber 2014.

The High Court held that the ar­rest and de­ten­tion of Fin­negan in Novem­ber 2014 was in breach of con­sti­tu­tional jus­tice and not ac­cord­ing to law. Ms Jus­tice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh noted that the de­lay was on the wrong side of the no­tional di­vid­ing line be­tween ac­cept­able and un­ac­cept­able de­lay.

Last Thurs­day, July 27, lawyers for the State suc­cess­fully ap­pealed the High Court’s judg­ment and, as a re­sult, Finnnegan faces ar­rest and a re­turn to prison.

Set­ting aside the High Court’s judg­ment on Thurs­day, Mr Jus­tice John Hedi­gan said it was hard to see how is­sues of fair pro­ce­dure could arise in the case of re­turn­ing an es­caped pris­oner to cus­tody.

There was no process, no in­quiry, no trial where fair­ness might be en­dan­gered by the pas­sage of time, no de­ci­sion mak­ing pro­ce­dure, no dis­cre­tion for the gar­daí to ex­er­cise and no ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion re­quired. The role of the gar­daí is to catch such an es­capee and hand him over to the prison au­thor­i­ties as quickly as pos­si­ble, he said.

Giv­ing back­ground, Mr Jus­tice Hedi­gan said that upon sim­ply ‘walk­ing out’ of Shel­ton Abbey open prison, his ab­sence was im­me­di­ately no­ti­fied to gar­daí in Ark­low.

Mr Jus­tice Hedi­gan said de­tails of his ab­scond­ing should have been, but were not, en­tered onto the Garda PULSE sys­tem. ‘ The rea­son is not known but plainly is due to hu­man er­ror. Such er­rors should not, but in the real world, do ac­tu­ally oc­cur,’ the judge said.

As a re­sult, no na­tion­wide no­ti­fi­ca­tion to gar­daí was made – specif­i­cally, gar­daí in Tal­laght were not put on no­tice. ‘Had they been, it is rea­son­able to as­sume that a visit’ to Fin­negan’s fam­ily home in Job­stown, would have fol­lowed quickly but ‘as it was’ they had no rea­son to do so, the judge said.

Fin­negan re­turned to his fam­ily home in Tal­laght where he had lived prior to his im­pris­on­ment. In 2011, he moved to a dif­fer­ent ad­dress in Tal­laght with his part­ner and had a child in 2013. He col­lected so­cial wel­fare in Tal­laght.

A garda In­spec­tor ad­mit­ted that there was no good ex­pla­na­tion for what hap­pened and that Fin­negan ‘ took no steps to con­ceal his where­abouts’.

Mr Jus­tice Hedi­gan said a rea­son had in fact been given by the au­thor­i­ties for the de­lay in find­ing and recom­mit­ting Fin­negan to prison ‘al­beit not one which does much credit to the same au­thor­i­ties’.

He said the sim­ple hu­man er­ror of fail­ing to en­ter de­tails on the PULSE sys­tem rea­son­ably re­sulted in Fin­negan not be­ing pur­sued. ‘What­ever about the fail­ings of the au­thor­i­ties … lit­tle credit may be ac­corded’ to Fin­negan, the judge said, other than that he has not of­fended since his es­cape from cus­tody.

Mr Jus­tice Hedi­gan said Fin­negan’s fail­ure to re­port to the au­thor­i­ties con­sti­tuted a lengthy pe­riod of ‘sim­ply ig­nor­ing’ the law­ful sen­tence im­posed on him and a ‘pro­tracted eva­sion of jus­tice’.

There was no ev­i­dence the gar­daí were aware of Fin­negan’s pres­ence ‘at large in the Tal­laght area dur­ing those years’ or of any ‘capri­cious or other mo­ti­va­tion in leav­ing him at large un­til some­time as they might choose to pick him up and re-im­prison him’.

He said the au­thor­i­ties have an obli­ga­tion to im­ple­ment prison sen­tences and that duty in­cludes re­turn­ing an es­caped pris­oner promptly to cus­tody.

It was ‘equally clear’ that any per­son sen­tenced to a term of im­pris­on­ment has an obli­ga­tion to serve that sen­tence.

Mr Jus­tice Hedi­gan said he found the ar­rest and im­pris­on­ment of Fin­negan was made in ac­cor­dance with law. The ap­peal was al­lowed and the High Court judg­ment was set aside.

Mr Jus­tice Ge­orge Birm­ing­ham and Mr Jus­tice John Ed­wards said they agreed with Mr Jus­tice Hedi­gan’s de­ci­sion.

Lawyers for the State un­der­took not to ar­rest Mr Fin­negan in the event his solic­i­tor, Michael Staines, lodges a Supreme Court ap­peal.

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