Sunday 19 August 2018

Woman wrongly arrested and held in Mountjoy over mistake about TV licence non-payment settles High Court action

Amy Daly (27), Kilbrook, Tullamore, Co Offaly pictured leaving the Four Courts today after she settled her High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Amy Daly (27), Kilbrook, Tullamore, Co Offaly pictured leaving the Four Courts today after she settled her High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A woman who was wrongly arrested and brought to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin over a mistake about non-payment of a television licence has settled her High Court action for damages.

Law student, Amy Daly (27), Kilbrook, Tullamore, Co Offaly, sued the Garda Commissioner, the Governor of the Dochas Centre at Mountjoy, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the State, over the incident on January 9, 2015.

The case opened before a judge and jury on Tuesday but, following talks, was settled.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton made an order for Ms Daly's legal costs and discharged the jury.

She had sued for false imprisonment, breach of her constitutional right to liberty, negligence and breach of duty.

The State parties had admitted liability for these breaches but there was an issue over the level of damages, the court heard.

Earlier, Robert Beatty SC, for Ms Daly, said Ms Daly, who has a seven year old son, had picked the boy up from a creche on January 9 and brought him back home where she was making a sandwich for him while the then four-year-old was playing upstairs.

A knock came to the door and two gardai were there to tell her there was an outstanding arrest warrant with regard to a TV licence.  Counsel said Ms Daly, who is a single mother, had been saving €4 TV licence stamps since the previous October and had collected €144 worth since then.

The gardai told her she would have to come to Tullamore Garda Station.  While there were logistical problems in regard to the care of her son, she presented herself at the station a short time later where she was incarcerated in a small cell there for the whole afternoon, counsel said.

Later she was brought to Mountjoy prison where she was again detained for several hours until the defendants became aware of their mistake, he said.  At that point, her father drove from Tullamore  to collect her and she was in an extremely distressed state.

Counsel said she was in an anxious and distressed state throughout the day.  She had a history of anxiety and suffered post-natal depression after the birth of her son in 2010.  For some six months before this incident however, she had been clear of those problems, counsel said.

The State parties have "held up their hands", counsel said, and said there was not just cause to incarcerate her.

The case was now about what level of damages she was entitled to and the focus of the issues between the parties was over her existing pre-incident difficulties, counsel said.

There had been no apology for what happened, he said.

There would be evidence that arising out of what happened she suffered panic attacks and felt unable to breathe.  She feared the defendants might try to arrest her again and moved out of her own home for a time to go back and live with her parents.  

She was unable to return to college for a time, suffered sleep disruption, nightmares and flashbacks and was prescribed medication for anxiety. 

When the case was about to resume after lunch, Mr Beatty said the case had been settled. Mr Justice Barton congratulated the parties on reaching a settlement.

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