Derry man (66) held ‘dirty protest’ in Magilligan Jail ‘to annoy staff’

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A court has heard how a 66-year-old Derry man caused thousands of pounds worth of damage and staged “a dirty protest” in Magilligan Jail “to annoy staff”.

James Francis Harkin, with an address at Damian House on Foyle Road in the city, received a sentence of 18 months probation for four counts of criminal damage to a cell and equipment between 11th July 2015 and 28th July 2015.

Limavady Magistrate’s Court heard on Wednesday Harkin was serving a sentence at the time of the offences for making hoax bomb calls. He was moved from one part of the prison to another for anti-social behaviour because he had urinated in cells.

When Harkin was moved, he staged what was termed “a dirty protest”, urinating and defecating in his cell, damaging walls, and furniture and smearing excrement on his own hair.

When asked why he did it, Harkin said he did it to annoy staff, but later said he was mentally ill and was not responsible for his own actions.

The cost of the damage was £6765.46, which included cleaning and refurbishing the cell and replacing the items.

Defence barrister Steven Mooney, who referred to Harkin as “an inveterate street drinker”, said since 2002 no other option had been considered for Harkin other than locking him up for a period of time, or imposing a suspended sentence or imposing fines.

Mr Mooney said, however, since Harkin was released “he has not gone back to his old habits” and had stayed out of trouble for five months, which he said was “utterly remarkable”. He said he was sure the NI Prison Service wouldn’t welcome him back.

District Judge Liam McNally said they were “very serious” offences and Harkin had caused a lot of damage.

However, given that Harkin had settled in his accommodation and hadn’t caused trouble. and “the probation officer thinks there is some light at the end of a very long tunnel”, Judge McNally would impose a sentence of 18 months probation.