Mum hauled to prison over TV licence error settles damages claim
A woman who was wrongly arrested and taken to Mountjoy Prison over a mistake about non-payment of a television licence has settled her High Court action for damages.
Law student Amy Daly (27), of Kilbrook, Tullamore, Co Offaly, sued the Garda Commissioner, the governor of the Dochas Centre at Mountjoy, the Justice and Equality Minister and the State over the incident on January 9, 2015.
The case opened before a judge and jury yesterday 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, for Ms Daly, said his client, who has a seven-year-old son, had picked the child up from a creche on January 9 and taken him back home where she was making him sandwich while the then four-year-old played upstairs.
Two gardai arrived at her home and told 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.
Gardai told her she would have to go to Tullamore Garda Station.
As there were logistical problems in regard to the care of her son, she presented herself at the station a short time later when she was incarcerated in a small cell for the whole afternoon, counsel said.
She was later taken to Mountjoy Prison where she was again detained for several hours until the defendants became aware of the mistake they had made, counsel said.
At that point, Ms Daly's father drove from Tullamore to collect her, and she was in an extremely distressed state.
Ms Daly had a history of anxiety and suffered post-natal depression after the birth of her son in 2010.
For around 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 was evidence that Ms Daly 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 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.