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'Slopping Out' case results in high court action by ex-prisoner

3rd December 2009

A man who was sentenced to a jail term for IRA membership has argued that his human rights were breached in Portlaoise prison by the 'slopping out' regime. Sean Mulligan who was imprisoned for five years contests that his human rights were breached as he had to urinate and defecate in a five inch round 'potty' in his cell.

The former prisoner is seeking compensation under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights which outlines that every prisoner has the right to privacy and should not be subjected to degrading or 'inhumane' treatment. Senior Counsel, Michael Higgins for the prisoner said the 'slopping out' issue was previously a concern by the UN Committee on the Prevention for Torture in 1994 and since then despite promises by prison authorities, no measures have been implemented.

The 'potty' was displayed to the judge. The prisoner contested that the contents (due to its size)would spill over in the small cell where the prisoner was expected to eat and sleep. Every morning the prisoner would have to empty the contents of the 'potty' in which he claimed would always splash out onto his face. Some prisoners did not use the potty provided and instead defecated on newspapers and threw it out the window during the night. Mr.Mulligan argued that he could not avoid walking on this excrement while out on the exercising yard, despite best efforts of the prison authorities to clean it up.

In the 1970s and 1980s Mr. Mulligan had served a previous sentence in which he developed haemorrhoids and also required surgery for other health problems. The prisoner was punished alongside 21 other inmates as a result of a prisoner protest, in which they were placed in 22 hour 'close confinement' for 28 days. The prisoner brought a case in which the judge found that close confinement had been unlawfully applied.

Latest figures from The Irish Penal Reform Trust reveal 30% of prisoners in Ireland are currently 'slopping out'. 

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