Tuesday 20 February 2018

Woman claims she was told to take off jeans - and accidentally dropped her underwear - to get through prison security

Nataliya Matviyenko pictured at the Four Courts for the opening day of her High Court action for damages.Pic: Courts Collins
Nataliya Matviyenko pictured at the Four Courts for the opening day of her High Court action for damages.Pic: Courts Collins

Tim Healy

A woman claims she was told to take off her metal studded jeans to get through a prison security check - and accidentally dropped her underwear when doing so, the High Court heard.

Nataliya Matviyenko is suing the State claiming she was humiliated when told to take off her jeans because they contained what were described as decorative metal buttons or studs, by a male prison officer.

She was required to do so before going through a metal detector while visiting her husband at Castlerea Prison in Roscommon, she claims.  

The prison officer denies she was asked to remove her clothing and was shocked when she dropped her trousers after being asked to remove her shoes, the court heard.

Arising out of the incident on May 6, 2009, she has sued the governor of  the prison, the Irish Prison Service and the Minister for Justice. She is seeking High Court damages for alleged negligence, breach of duty and of constitutional rights.

In proceedings before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, Ms Matviyenko, a Russian speaking Ukrainian who is now a naturalised Irish Citizen, told the court she felt "humiliated" "embarrassed".  She felt like "someone had poured a bucket of dirt over my head," as a result of the incident.

The claims are denied.

The defendants say she he was never asked to remove her trousers and she was treated appropriately and professionally by the prison officers.

Ms Matviyenko, a mother of two children, with an address at Leas na Coille, Ballybane, Galway, claims she went to the prison to visit her now husband who was in 2009 serving a prison sentence for drink driving.

She had to give him a legal document.

She had to pass through an airport style security process.

She placed some outer garments items in a tray, as instructed, which were to pass through an x-ray machine. Before she went through a metal detector, she showed the prison officer metal studs or buttons on the jeans.

She said the officer told her to take them off.

She believed this meant take off her trousers and she complied. She dropped her trousers as far as her knees, which also pulled down her underwear, leaving her exposed for a short period.

She claims the prison officer then shouted "what are you doing, are you crazy".

She immediately pulled up her clothing.

She said she was left feeling humiliated by her experience as there were others present.

She claims she was not allowed visit her husband that day. and a prison officer told her that "we can't have you doing a striptease."

The officer who she alleges told her to remove the jeans, Ciaran Croghan, said in evidence she was never asked to remove her trousers.

Officer Croghan said he told her as she was going through the security screening process to place her outer garments, including a belt, jacket and shoes on a tray to be scanned by the x-ray.

He said she told him what was required of her was 'stupid' and 'she should not have to do this'.

He told her this was standard procedure and 'she was not being singled out'.

He said she pointed out she had metal studs or buttons on her jeans that might set off the metal detector.

He told her that was not a problem. 

He said that just after he asked to remove her shoes before going through the metal detector she dropped her trousers.

He said he was 'shocked' by her action, and immediately called his superior officer. He said he informed his superior what happened. 

Officer Croghan did not know why she dropped her trousers. 

He said when his superior, after arriving in the screening area, asked her why she dropped her trousers. He said she replied she was "sorry."

Under cross examination, he denied that he or other prison officers laughed at her, or that he had ever asked her to remove her trousers.

The case continues.

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