Woman awarded €50,000 as gardai raid house by mistake
A WOMAN whose home was raided by mistake by gardai has been awarded €50,000 damages by a High Court judge.
Mr Justice Sean Ryan said Paula Hamlett suffered a frightening, embarrassing and humiliating experience when gardai raided and searched her home.
Ms Hamlett, an IT manager, from Priory Lodge, Termonfeckin, Co Louth, sued the State for trespass and defamation as a result of the early-morning raid on February 27, 2007.
She claimed the doorbell rang persistently at 7.30am and a voice said: "Open the door or we will knock it down."
The State admitted it had breached her constitutional rights. The court heard a warrant had been obtained for a search of a different address and that the raid on the Hamlett home was a genuine error.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Ryan said gardai were searching for somebody they had good reason to apprehend and that they had to act fast in case their quarry escaped. In this case, the gardai realised relatively quickly that they had made a mistake.
He noted there were two unfinished housing estates very close together and no name at the entrance of either estate.
Gardai had apologised promptly and treated Ms Hamlett with a degree of sensitivity.
The judge accepted her evidence that one of the officers was very aggressive.
Ms Hamlett said she was at home with her five-year-old son and stepson after her husband had gone to work. She was woken at around 7.30am by a loud banging on her front door.
Her stepson went downstairs and said he was getting a key. She said a lot of men pushed in the entrance and she did not know what was happening. A garda said he had a warrant and flashed a piece of paper. They were brought in to a front room while other men ran upstairs. "I could hear thrashing overhead. I was hysterical," she said.
Another garda came downstairs and shouted at her. She said he threw one of her letters on the table and banged the table, asking did she know the address on the envelope.
"I told him he was standing in the address. He left," she said.
A female garda told her somebody would be back to explain.
She said: "Nobody came back with an explanation."
Afterwards Ms Hamlett said she did not want to stay in her home on her own. "It did not feel like my house any more," she said.