THE practice of quarantining new prisoners at Cork Prison for 14 days was clarified today following concerns expressed by a district judge that the protocol might be unconstitutional.
On Wednesday, several inmates had been due to appear at Cork District Court via video link from Cork Prison.
The judge was told that since last week, new prisoners were being put in 14 days of isolation.
Judge Olann Kelleher was concerned this might infringe their rights to appear in court within one week of their first remand in custody. Prison authorities have since clarified the position.
At the end of today’s sitting of the court, Sergeant John Kelleher said: “I have been made aware there is a difference between quarantine and isolation.
"When a prisoner first goes into prison he is in quarantine for two weeks. This does not stop him appearing by video link from prison or in person in court.”
Judge Kelleher said, “There was a misunderstanding.”
Sgt Kelleher said it had been clarified that quarantining did not interfere with a prisoner’s right to appear in court.
“It is a different matter if they are in isolation due to Covid-19,” Sgt Kelleher said.
Judge Kelleher said a prisoner not appearing because of isolation due to Covid-19 was like the situation that occurred when a prisoner could not appear in court due to any other illness.
The judge added: “That is perfect, I am glad that it has been clarified.”
In effect, the confusion arose at Cork Prison where prisoners being quarantined were described as being in isolation and were not being brought to the video room in the prison for their appearances at Cork District Court.
It is understood that the practice of quarantining new prisoners is precautionary and is being done in respect of all prisoners arriving at the prison on Rathmore Rd.
On Wednesday, there were about seven cases at Cork District Court where a prisoner due to appear by video link was unavailable to appear.
It has now transpired that being in quarantine should not have been an obstacle to appearing in court. It is further understood that if a quarantined prisoner made his court appearance by video link, it would not affect the 14-day duration of quarantine.
If he appeared in person in court and later returned to Cork Prison, this would see his 14-day quarantine recommence from day one.