Prison governor entitled to sanction rapist for throwing bible at judge, appeal court holds

Michael Murray lost privileges at Midlands Prison for 40 days over incident during 2021 sentencing hearing

The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s dismissal of convicted rapist Michael Murray’s challenge against a disciplinary sanction imposed on him by prison authorities.

Murray lost ordinary privileges at the Midlands Prison for 40 days for throwing a bible at a judge during a sentencing hearing at the Courts of Criminal Justice in July 2021. He had been given a 16-year sentence for making threats to the barristers who prosecuted him and for harassing others involved in his trial.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan in 2022 dismissed Murray’s action over the sanction imposed by the governor of the Midlands Prison. He found the governor was “lawfully entitled” to discipline and sanction Murray in the manner in which he did. Murray appealed the decision.

In its judgment, the three-judge Court of Appeal dismissed all but one of the arguments raised by Murray.


The court agreed with the conclusions reached by the lower court in respect of the sanction. However, it found in Murray’s favour regarding the High Court’s refusal to recommend payment to the legal representatives under the Legal Aid Custody Issue Scheme.

The action arose after Murray (52), formerly of Seafield Road, Killiney, Co Dublin, was being sentenced in July 2021 after being found guilty by a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court of threatening to kill Dominic McGinn SC and Tony McGillicuddy SC. He was also convicted of harassing Mr McGinn.

He was further convicted of harassing his former solicitor and a woman he was convicted of raping by advertising them online as prostitutes. Murray denied the charges.

Murray was excluded from the sentencing hearing and moved to another courtroom to watch proceedings via a video link after he threw a bible, narrowly missing Judge Karen O’Connor.

He was convicted in 2013 of the rape and sexual assault of a woman whose child he abducted. He made the threats to the parties on dates between late 2014 and early 2015, while he was serving a 19-year sentence for the rape.

A complaint about his conduct at the hearing was made to the governor of the Midlands Prison, where he was incarcerated. Following a disciplinary process, Murray received a sanction of a loss of ordinary privileges within the prison, including restrictions on his recreational time, visits and phone calls.

His judicial review action was against the governor, with the Irish Prison Service, Minister for Justice, Ireland and the Attorney General listed as notice parties

Murray claimed the sanction could not be imposed as the alleged misconduct was committed while he was in the custody of the court, rather than the prison authorities.

He argued the prison authorities lacked the power to impose a sanction on a prisoner for any breach of the 2007 Prison Rules Act or discipline when that person is in the custody of the court. Any such breach could only be dealt with by the presiding judge by way of a finding of contempt of court, it was further claimed.

The claims were denied.

Giving the Court of Appeal’s decision, Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh said the court was in no doubt that Murray was at all times in the custody of the governor at the sentencing hearing.

The court did not accept the novel proposition that there is a concept of judicial custody into which a prisoner passes when physically present in a courtroom. The court concluded the governor was “within jurisdiction” and acted per the prison rules when the sanction was imposed.

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