Innocent mum awarded €5k after gardai smash front door in drugs raid
An innocent mum-of-three has been awarded almost €5,000 after gardai smashed in her door.
Erica O'Reilly, a children's dance teacher told Dublin District Court she and her three daughters, aged from two to eight, had gone on a holiday in Co Wicklow.
On the third day she was told gardai had entered her home and damaged it.
Judge Michael Coghlan was told 10 gardai arrived at the house.
They knocked at the door but there was no reply. Five minutes later they removed the glass sliding door with a crowbar and forced entry through the timber door with a sledgehammer and a rammer. No one was home.
Ms O'Reilly got estimates for repairs from a number of builders, but the one that quoted her €4,992 was the only one who would let her pay by instalment. The Garda Commissioner, Minister for Justice and the State contested her civil claim for damages at Dublin District Court, where she accused them of negligence and sought €4,992, the cost of repairing her doorway.
Gardai have accepted that Ms O'Reilly is of good character and nothing illegal was found in her home during the raid on July 27 last year.
Judge Michael Coghlan said yesterday there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the garda who led the search team after he was given instructions from a superior officer.
"But wrongdoing has occurred to an innocent citizen and I cannot believe the State can remain unaffected by its actions," he said.
He ruled that the State would have to pay Ms O'Reilly the €4,992 and her legal costs.
Judge Coghlan heard she had never been in trouble before or in court except for jury duty.
She is also garda vetted to teach dance to young children, the court heard. She lived alone but had a partner who is a youth worker and a football coach.
Judge Coghlan was told that while Ms O'Reilly was away a garda from the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau placed her home under surveillance for four hours over two days.
The court heard that the garda had been acting on information he received from a sergeant who had obtained it from an informant through the Garda Covert Human Intelligence Sources system.
A warrant was obtained to carry out a search under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Judge Coghlan heard that the garda spotted known drug-users and dealers collecting packages from the front yard. He suspected that these were drug transactions.
Judge Coghlan said it appeared that people were solely entering her front garden of her empty house "for the purpose of dropping off and collecting".
He said Ms O'Reilly, of Croftwood Green, Ballyfermot, was an innocent citizen and the State's right to effect a forcible entry did not "sandbag" it from a claim for damages.