Wednesday 23 May 2018

'All this over an unpaid TV licence' - innocent young woman sent to Mountjoy Prison in case of mistaken identity

  • Amy Daly (27) was wrongly detained on January 9, 2015
  • Someone with a similar name failed to attend court over an unpaid TV licence
Law student Amy Daly was arrested, detained at Tullamore Garda Station for six hours and then brought to Mountjoy Prison in a caged van
Law student Amy Daly was arrested, detained at Tullamore Garda Station for six hours and then brought to Mountjoy Prison in a caged van
Amy Daly (27) was wrongly detained on January 9 2015 after gardai came to her home in Tullamore, Co Offaly with a warrant for the arrest of someone with a similar name

Kathy Armstrong

An innocent young mother who was sent to Mountjoy Prison in a case of mistaken identity has said that her ordeal will stay with her forever and she hopes it never happens to anyone else.

Amy Daly (27) was wrongly detained on January 9, 2015 after gardai came to her home in Tullamore, Co Offaly with a warrant for the arrest of someone with a similar name over an unpaid TV licence who had failed to show up at an a court appearance.

Amy, who is a law student, was arrested, detained at Tullamore Garda Station for six hours and then brought to Mountjoy Prison in a caged van.

She told Independent.ie about how the ordeal changed her life.

"I had just picked up my son Jayden from playschool and I was at home making him a sandwich, it was around 12pm and there was a knock on the door.

"There was a knock on the door and there were two guards there from Tullamore Garda Station, they asked if my name is Amy but they never asked for my second name.

Amy Daly (27) was wrongly detained on January 9 2015 after gardai came to her home in Tullamore, Co Offaly
Amy Daly (27) was wrongly detained on January 9 2015 after gardai came to her home in Tullamore, Co Offaly

"They said I was due in court the day before and had never shown up and that there was a warrant for my arrest," Amy said.

She explained to the gardai that she had been collecting stamps for her TV licence and the TV inspector had only called to her door the day before and said everything was above board.

She asked to see the arrest warrant a couple of times but they said she would have to come to the garda station to look at it.

Amy said: "Jayden was in the house at the time, he had just turned four and my grandparents were in Australia and my parents were working so I had nobody to leave him with.

"The guards told me I had to find someone to leave him with because I had to go to Mountjoy, I dropped him with a neighbour and told them I would only be a few minutes to sort it out because it was a mistake.

"At the station they weren't having any of it, they didn't believe me, they took my belongings of me and processed me before I was placed in a cell."

Amy said gardaí again refused to allow her see the arrest warrant and she was kept in the cell for about six hours.

She recalls: "I was full of fear, I was completely distraught, I suffered from panic attacks in the past and I was just so upset, plus I had had to leave my son, it was just a nightmare.

"When I was being taken out of the cell I thought, 'Thank God, I get to go home,' but that was when they said I was being transferred to Mountjoy."

She asked again to see the warrant but was refused.

"I was placed in the back of a caged garda van with another girl from Tullamore, who was being sent there over a TV licence, you'd swear we were criminals.

"I got to quickly call my mam to tell her what had happened and ask her to pick Jayden up.

"On the way to Mountjoy I was having panic attacks, I was feeling nauseous and sick," she said.

When they arrived at the Dublin prison, Amy was processed and placed in a holding cell alongside other people, it was only when they were being called out one by one that officers called her by a different surname and realised it was a case of mistaken identity.

"I said that wasn't my name and they accused me of being dishonest and said if I did that they would keep us in longer, I said nobody was listening to me and they had the wrong person.

"They asked to see my ID, they only thing I had was my bank card and then they realised it was a massive mistake and that they had the wrong person."

She was placed in another holding cell on her own and at this stage did not know whether she would have to stay in prison overnight, after the gardai initially calling to her home at around 12.15pm that day, she was only freed from Mountjoy at 10.45pm.

"I thought I was never going to get out and it was getting dark outside, the prison officer asked who they could contact so my dad drove up to collect me.

"When I was released from the Dóchas Centre in Mountjoy I was given a temporary release form with my picture and another person's name on it," she explained.

Before the incident Amy had been off her medication for her anxiety and panic attacks but she said her ordeal took a toll on her health.

She said candidly: "My anxiety came back over the last three years, I had to put back exams but I'm coming out the other side and things are looking good.

"My good name and reputation were tainted by this, my neighbours saw the guards at the door and this event will always be with me."

She sued the Garda Commissioner, the governor of the Dochas Centre at Mountjoy, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the State over the incident.

She 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 case was opened before a jury last month but was settled following talks.

Amy stresses that she bears no ill feeling against the gardai who arrested her but she doesn't want anyone else to experience what happened to her.

"This was purely a case of mistaken identity, I didn't owe a TV licence or anything, I've never received an apology to date.

"The guards should focus more on actual crimes than chasing people for a TV licence, it costs the State a lot of money between garda time, the courts, transport," she said.

"I have no ill will against the gardai in Tullamore, it was an honest mistake and they have admitted liabilty.

"As a child I was brought up to respect the gardai and I continue to do so but I just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else," she continued.

"It felt like I was a criminal, I was placed in a cell with a small window and a big mental door, people might think it was just a few hours but for someone with pre-existing anxiety and panic attacks and suffers from claustrophobia it was just madness."

A spokesman for An Garda Siochana told Independent.ie: "We do not comment on named individuals."

The Department of Justice and the Irish Prison Service also declined to comment.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News