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Solicitor unable to meet client as she sets off prison's metal detector

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A PRISONER could not meet with his solicitor because she kept setting off the metal detector during her visits to the jail, the High Court has heard.

Ming Liu is serving a four year sentence for a drugs offences and claims his solicitor Eileen McCabe has been told by Portloaise Prison authorities she cannot enter the jail to take instructions from him as long as she keeps setting off the metal detector.

In his legal action, Liu, a Chinese national, says he needs to consult with her and that this policy is unfair and unreasonable.

Late last month Ms McCabe travelled to Portlaoise for a consultation with her client.

Feichin McDonagh SC, for Liu, said the visit was arranged to determine if he qualifies for remission of his sentence.

Counsel said before the meeting was due to take place, Ms McCabe went through the prison's metal detector, which indicated the presence of metal. 

According to Ms McCabe, it is commonplace for the detector to go off when she or other females go through.

On previous occasions when this happened, security staff asked the her to go through the detector several times, before being allowed entry.

On one visit, she said, she had to go through the detector eight times.

On the most recent occasion she went through the detector three times.

Each time the detector indicated the presence of metal, even though she had no metal objects on her. She was then informed by the prison's security staff she could not enter and have the consultation with Liu.

Ms McCabe said she was happy to consent to a body search by one of the female prison officers, or be scanned with a hand held device used to detect metal.

However, she was told there is a strict policy in place at Portlaoise Prison that "if the detector indicates the presence of metal on a person that person will not be allowed to enter the prison."

The policy was confirmed to her following a consultation with a senior prison officer.

Counsel said it is Mr Liu's case this inflexible policy which does not allow for alternative security measures.

Counsel added the policy as currently being operated at the prison is a new departure from what had been in place previously, and is different to what is in place in other prisons.

The current policy is inconsistent with the practice and procedures publicised by the Prison Service on its website, and is irrational, he said.

Ming Liu, counsel said, was prejudiced because he was denied access to his solicitor.

His proceedings are against the Irish Prisons Service, the Governor of Portlaoise Prison and the Minister for Justice and Equality.   Liu seeks an order quashing the policy being operated in relation to security screening at the prison.

Permission to bring the case was granted on an ex-parte basis (one side only represented) by Mr Justice Paul McDermott.

The matter was made returnable to early December.

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