A Queensland judge has ruled that the detention of a brutal killer held in solitary confinement for almost eight years in a maximum security prison is unlawful and an infringement of his human rights.
Brisbane Supreme Court Justice Glenn Martin last Friday (22 Oct) found a Maximum Security Order (MSO) imposed against convicted murderer Michael Stephen Owen-D’arcy was not compatible with his human rights.
Owen-D’Arcy, 40, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on 7 December 2010 over the frenzied stabbing and mutilation murder of flatmate David John Easton at Inala in July 2007.
Justice Martin, in a 69-page decision, said: “The sentencing judge described what (Owen-D’Arcy) did as ‘abhorrent and violent in a high degree’. He went on to say: ‘In view of the nature and degree of the risk to public safety he poses and in all probability will continue to pose indefinitely, the most careful scrutiny should be given to any application for parole that he may ever make’.”
In January 2011, Owen-D’Arcy was classified as a maximum security prisoner and in the three years following that classification he was convicted of a number of other offences, including the attempted murder of a corrective services officer.
“That was described by the sentencing judge as ‘cold, calculated and a callous act’,” Justice Martin said.
In January 2013 Queensland Corrective Services issued Owen D’Arcy with an MSO – which meant he was to be held in solitary confinement and have no association with other inmates and limited contact with prison staff. A new order has been issued around every six months over the last eight years.
Justice Martin said Owen-D’Arcy had applied to the court for review under the Judicial Review Act 1991 after a decision to impose another MSO for the period 18 June to 16 December 2020.
“(Owen-D’Arcy) claims that, in deciding to issue the MSO the decision-maker failed (among other things) to afford him natural justice, and breached a number of the rights (Owen-D’Arcy) enjoys pursuant to the Human Rights Act 2019,” Justice Martin said.
He noted Corrective Services executive director Samantha Newman also made another No Association Decision (NAD) last year, which prevents Owen-D’Arcy having any contact with other prisoners in the maximum security unit without approval.
Justice Martin found Ms Newman failed to take into account the effect of the NAD on Owen-D’Arcy’s human rights.
Section 30 of the Human Rights Act says all persons deprived of liberty must be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
“The NAD is as much a part of solitary confinement or segregation as the MSO,” Justice Martin said. “It is not a physical isolation, but it works to prevent (Owen-D’Arcy) from engaging in any meaningful conversations or exchanges. It places him in a cocoon of isolation from all but the slightest interaction with other human beings.”
Since January 2013 Owen D’Arcy has lived in solitary confinement in a cell that is 3.8 metres long and 2.2 metres wide. When allowed outside, he has been required to wear a body belt, handcuffs and leg irons.
As a result of Justice Martin’s findings, Queensland’s Attorney-General, Chief Executive of Queensland Corrective Services and the Queensland Human Rights Commission have been given until November to make submissions as to what appropriate orders should be made to remedy Owen-D’Arcy’s current situation.
Read the decision.