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Teacher says her career was "destroyed" after phone in her bra set off prison detectors

She is suing the Irish Prison Service and Minister for Justice, among others.

File photo of Mountjoy Prison Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

A TEACHER CLAIMS her career in the prison services was “destroyed” after a mobile phone was detected in her bra while she was passing through a security check at the Mountjoy Prison complex.

Katherine Boyle, an employee of Dublin VEC who taught in the prison system for 15 years, claims she lost her security clearance after she forgot she left her phone in her bra strap before going through the security check.

Yesterday the High Court heard she caused a scanner to beep three times before she entered St Patrick’s Institute for young offenders on the morning of 3 September 2008.

Once she realised the phone was setting off the scanner she removed it from her clothing and gave it to a prison officer.

The officer then provided her with a tag, and she proceeded into St Patrick’s.

She claims the phone, which she usually left at home or in her car, was on her person because earlier that morning she needed to be in contact with a person who was viewing her friend’s apartment which was available to rent.

She left it in her strap so she could easily access the phone if it rang while she was driving to work.

In addition, when she arrived at the prison she went to speak to a colleague, and had forgot about the phone before going through the screening process.

The following day she was informed that the issue concerning the mobile phone was subject to an inquiry by senior staff at the prison.

She eventually had to furnish a report to the Prison Service. The High Court heard she was requested to go out on sick leave for a few days while the process was being undertaken.

However, a few days later, on 9 September 2008, an article appeared in a newspaper with the headline “Phone In Bra Jail Smuggler busted.”

The article went on to state that a prison worker, not an officer, had been suspended after she was caught trying to smuggle an illegal mobile phone into a jail hidden inside her bra.

The contents of the article were a distortion of what had occurred, she claims.

On 1 October 2008 she was informed the investigation had been completed and her access to St Patrick’s Institution had been withdrawn.

Arising out of that, Boyle – of Donagher’s Lane Prosperous, Naas, Co Kildare – sued the Governor of St Patrick’s Institution, the Irish Prison Service, the Minister for Justice, and the Attorney General seeking damages and punitive and exemplary damages for the personal injuries she claims she suffered.

The Four Courts File photo of the Four Courts in Dublin. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

The article, it is claimed, breached Ms Boyle’s rights including her right to privacy, right to fair procedures and right to be freely employed within the state.

The Prison Service should not have disclosed the material to the media, it is also claimed.

The claims are denied.

Opening the case, Jacqueline O’Brien SC, appearing with John Nolan BL, for Boyle said her client was “utterly humiliated” by the contents of the article. Boyle had “willingly handed over” the mobile telephone when she realised it was on her person.

While Boyle was not named in the article, counsel said it was well known it was her client.

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Boyle, counsel added, was “constantly reminded” of it and ultimately it was “the death knell of her career as a prison teacher”.

Boyle had been working in the prison service since 1993 without any incident, counsel said. She had also hoped to be promoted to deputy principal at another prison.

After her security clearance was revoked her career was “destroyed,” counsel said. She could no longer work within the prison system.

Counsel said she had passed through a new security screening system which had been introduced to prevent mobile phones being used by prisoners.

The measures arose after a prisoner John Daly, in 2007, had called RTE’s Liveline programme from Portlaoise Prison with a mobile phone.

Counsel said Boyle’s security clearance was removed despite the fact she was not given a chance to make representations on her own behalf.

Despite making several requests, CCTV of the incident of the incident in 2008 was only provided by the defendants in November 2014.

Counsel said Boyle’s trade union, the TUI, supported her case and sought to appeal the decision to revoke her clearance. However that request was refused.  She now works with members of the Irish Travelling Community, counsel said.

Counsel said while her client is a resilient person she has suffered stress and anxiety arising out of the way she was treated.

The case before Mr Justice Anthony Barr continues.

Read: Woman who dropped trousers at prison sues State>

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About the author:

Aodhan O Faolain

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