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'Prison teacher never tried to smuggle anything into the jail,' court hears


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Judge's gavel

A TEACHER suing over an incident in which a mobile phone was detected in her bra strap at a prison security check says she never tried to smuggle anything into the jail.

Katherine Boyle, an employee of Dublin VEC who taught in the prison system for 15 years, lost her security clearance after she forgot she left her phone in her bra strap before going through the security check at St Patrick's Institution for young offenders in Dublin on September 3, 2008.

Ms Boyle of  Donagher’s Lane, Prosperous, Co Kildare, has sued the governor of St Patrick’s, the Irish Prison Services, Minister for Justice and the State seeking damages after a story about the incident was leaked to the Irish Daily Star newspaper.

On September 9, 2008, an article appeared under the headline “Phone In Bra Jail Smuggler busted”, the court heard.

The article, which did not name her, said a prison worker had been suspended after being caught trying to smuggle an illegal mobile phone into a jail hidden inside her bra. That was a distortion of what had occurred, she claims.

She claims the article breached her rights including to privacy, fair procedures and to be employed freely within the State.

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

The claims are denied.

The defendants said its decision to deny her access to the prison is due entirely to Ms Boyle's own conduct on September 3 when they allege she only revealed to she was in possession of the mobile phone when she was informed she was about to be subjected to a "pat-down search".

The defendants also plead an official at the Irish Prison Service did respond to a query from the Star to confirm a member of prison staff had been caught carrying a mobile phone  and had been suspended in an investigation.

The defendants deny that confirmation breached any right of confidentiality to Ms Boyle or that the defendants are responsible for any of the remainder of the contents of the article.

In her evidence today, Ms Boyle said she caused a scanner to beep three times before she entered St Patrick’s, en route to teach her classes.

Once she realised the phone was setting off the scanner, she removed it from her clothing and handed it to a prison officer who provided her with a tag before she proceeded into St Patrick’s, she said.

She usually left her phone at home but had forgotten about it before going through the screening process.

The following day she was informed the matter was subject to an inquiry and her security clearance was later withdrawn.

She said despite not being named in the newspaper article, she was contacted by colleagues and family members about the report.

One colleague, she said ,described it as being "hilarious". She said there was noting funny about the article.

She said the contents of the newspaper article, including that she handed over the phone just before a prison officer was about to do a pat down, were not true.

She said she had never tried to smuggle anything into any prison.

She also "really disliked" the description that the phone was in her bra. She said  she had the phone in the shoulder strap of her bra.

She said that after the article appeared in he paper she knew that she had to get another job.

She rang a colleague who worked at another prison concerning a reference. The colleague refused to give her one and told Ms Boyle "nobody would touch her with a barge pole."

The case continues.

Online Editors