Prisoner did €1,750 worth of damage to prison cell

A former inmate of Mountjoy Prison “lost his head” shortly after his partner took her own life and caused over €1,700 worth of damage to his cell, a court has heard.

Keith McDonnell (29) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to criminal damage of his prison cell on May 21, 2013.

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At his sentence hearing the court heard that McDonnell, of Glenshane Green, Tallaght, had been serving a separate sentence for criminal damage at the time of the offence.

Sarah-Jane O’Callaghan BL, defending, said McDonnell’s former partner died of suicide and that after going to visit her in the mortuary he returned to prison and “lost his head”.

“He literally went to pieces,” she said, adding that McDonnell was very ashamed of his behaviour and of the damage he had caused to his cell.

A prosecuting garda told Lisa Dempsey BL, prosecuting, that on the day in question, a prison officer heard a commotion coming from the accused’s cell.

Prison Officer Jason Kinch was working in the Challenging Behaviour Unit and saw McDonnell in an agitated state, shouting and roaring aggressively at other staff.

McDonnell threw a cup of tea at a staff member and threatened to smash up his cell, whereupon Prison Officer Kinch entered the cell to try and remove the television, which is standard procedure in such incidents.

The court heard that McDonnell reacted angrily and pushed the television onto the ground, so the prison officer left the cell and locked it behind him.

The prison officer could hear the noise of damage being done inside McDonnell’s cell but he was called to respond to an incident elsewhere.

Mr Kinch and several other prison officers later put on their control and restraint attire and went into McDonnell’s cell, removed him and placed him in a special observation cell.

The washbasin had been smashed in his cell and waste pipes and fittings had been damaged, along with a 22-metre glass viewing panel and a modesty screen door.

A laminated mirror and a spyhole were also damaged and the cell had to be redecorated and plasterwork repaired, the court heard.

The total cost of the damage done was €1,750.

McDonnell has 68 previous convictions including five for criminal damage, multiple assaults and thefts.

The court heard he took a bench warrant in 2014 and fled to the UK for a number of years, but decided to come back to Ireland last year and sort out his outstanding warrants.

Ms O’Callaghan presented letters to the court from McDonnell’s step-father and sister, explaining how the death of his former partner had had “devastating effects”. She said McDonnell had a child with his current partner and that they currently have twins on the way.

Judge Melanie Greally accepted that McDonnell had not re-offended in Ireland since 2015, which she said suggested he was maturing and trying to get his life together.

The judge said McDonnell still had issues with alcohol and anger and she ordered a probation report to be prepared to assess whether he was truly committed to living a crime-free life.

McDonnell is due for sentence on May 22, next.

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