Garda personal injury claim adjourned

A personal injury case hearing claims a Detective Garda from Cavan suffered psychological injuries after a prisoner defecated in his cell and rubbed his excrement on his face, has been adjourned.

The High Court this week heard that in June 2005, Cavan-based Det. Garda Linda Harkin (39) had brought a cup of tea to a prisoner who had not wanted to co-operate during interviews, but had not caused any trouble prior to the incident.

The man had been brought in for questioning in relation to a “serious gangland murder investigation”.

Det. Garda Harkin of Rocklands, Cavan, is suing the State for compensation for personal injury. She told a Garda compensation hearing that on the second day of the man's detention she brought him a cup of tea, which he had requested.

Post Traumatic Stress
She left it on his cell door hatch before checking on him, seeing that the prisoner had put his head close to the hatch after smearing excrement all over his face and in his mouth.

She was further shocked when the prisoner opened his mouth and it was filled with excrement. It covered his teeth and she could see he was trying to swallow it.

Det Garda Larkin and the prisoner were almost nose-to-nose and she feared he was going to spit the excrement in her face.

As a result of the incident, she claimed she developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and short term anorexia.

She said the smell in the cell area had been overpowering, and she had later developed a hypersensitivity to smell. She immediately felt sick and went to a sink to vomit. She felt weak and later had been unable to drive home and was collected by her husband that evening.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton this week held, in a preliminary issue in the case, that the prisoner had intended on maliciously attacking Det. Garda Harkin, and that the prisoner had not been acting out of an alleged psychological condition.

Barrister Esther Earley told the court that malice had to be proved in Garda compensation cases; or alternatively,  that malice did exist had to have been accepted – prior to the hearing – by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Malicious attack
Mr Frank Martin, who appeared with Cavan solicitor Michael Ryan acting for Det. Garda Harkin, said it was clear what happened in the cell was “no potty training accident”. There had been toilet facilities in the cell and therefore it had obviously been a malicious attack.

The court was informed the prisoner had later been charged and convicted for damaging three cell blankets, and ordered by a District Court judge to undergo psychiatric treatment.

Judge Barton said he was satisfied the prisoner knew Det. Garda Harkin would bring him his tea, or check on him, so he had approached the cell hatch to make sure his face would be visible close up.
Justice Barton adjourned the remainder of the hearing to a date to be fixed.