A NEW practice of putting prisoners arriving in Cork Prison into isolation for 14 days was described by a District Judge today as “bordering on unconstitutional.”
As the list of cases to be dealt with by video link from prisons to Cork District Court was being called today a number of prisoners were unable to come to the video room in Cork Prison as they were described as being in isolation.
By the time the fifth such case was called, Judge Kelleher queried why so many prisoners appeared to be in insolation and were not being brought to the video room in prison for their Cork District Court appearance.
Prison officers escorting other prisoners to court were present and explained that since last Thursday, April 9, it had been policy in Cork Prison to put new prisoners into isolation for the first 14 days of their time in prison.
Judge Kelleher said that something would need to be sorted out in respect of the court appearances.
The judge said that a remand prisoner could not be remanded in custody for longer than one week on a first remand.
But he said it now appeared that with the policy of putting new prisoners into isolation for 14 days they would not be able to appear in court after one week.
“That is bordering on unconstitutional,” the judge commented.
The judge later said he could understand the thinking behind isolating new prisoners.
But against that he said, “They are entitled to be brought before the court within one week.”
When another similar case came up later in the list where a remanded prisoner was not brought to the video room of the prison, Judge Kelleher said, “I cannot over-rule the prison governor.
"There is the practical side if the prison governor says he is not to leave. A similar situation does arise if someone is sick and cannot be produced.”
In all there were about seven cases at Cork District Court today where a prisoner due to appear by video link was unavailable due to being in isolation.
Each of them did have a solicitor in court for the cases.
Some solicitors said they had been unable to get through to their clients by way of the normal phone arrangements.