Wednesday 20 November 2019

Former nursing student avoids jail by agreeing to stay away from college

Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

A WOMAN who failed first year in a nursing degree course at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology has avoided being jailed after she agreed to obey a court order preventing her from attending lectures.

Anna Marie Flanagan told Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court today that she would comply with an injunction granted in 2011 preventing her from attending lectures, lab work or practicals given as part of the nursing degree course at GMIT's campus at Westport Road, Castlebar Co Mayo, until her suspension was lifted and the college readmitted her.

Mr Justice Cross welcomed Ms Flanagan's decision to comply with the orders, but warned her that she faced being sent to prison if there were any further breaches.

Ms Flanagan was arrested earlier today and brought before the court by the Gardai after lawyers for GMIT said that she was in contempt of the court orders on several occasions this month. Ms Flanagan had attended at lectures given to third-year nursing undergraduates at GMIT's campus, it was claimed.

She was asked to leave by security staff and the Gardai but refused to do so. Ms Flanagan, with addresses at Kilmucklin, Tullamore, and Upton House, in Clara, Co Offaly, began the nursing degree course offered by the college.

It was claimed she failed to pass her first-year examinations, and did not sit the repeats.

Despite not passing her exams she began to attend second year classes and lectures, which the court heard she was not permitted to do, and was eventually suspended by the college.

Arising out of this in May 2011, GMIT obtained a High Court injunction restraining Ms Flanagan from attending classes. Ms Flanagan had, until earlier this month, complied with the orders granted against her by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy.

The court also heard that GMIT does not consider her to be a registered student at the college.

Ms Flanagan, who was not legally represented, agreed today to comply with the orders against her.

In opposing the proceedings against her she claimed she had been wrongfully arrested, and disputed the validity of the order directing that she be brought before the Court for alleged contempt. She also disputed a number of GMIT's claims against her.

She argued she was entitled to attend at GMIT as the 2011 High Court order had expired and her suspension by GMIT had been lifted.

Mr Justice Cross said the court was not concerned with any dispute between Ms Flanagan and GMIT. All that he was dealing with was the breach of the rule of law arising out of a failure to comply with an order of the court.

The failure to obey the order, the Judge said, was "a very serious matter". Even if she did not agree with the order made against her in 2011, she still had to comply with it. "If you do not obey the orders you will have a penalty to pay," said the judge.

The judge said that the order directing that she be arrested and brought before the court was validly made, as he had made it himself.

He also said that even if her suspension had been lifted by GMIT under the terms of the order made against her she was not entitled to go back to GMIT until the college had readmitted her.

He welcomed her decision to comply with the order, but warned that there was not a judge in the country who would not jail her if she went back on her undertakings and started to re-attend at GMIT.

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