herald

Tuesday 16 January 2018

My prison nightmare after being locked up over €12.70 dog licence

This is the upstanding citizen who was treated like a criminal and locked up in Mountjoy over a €12.70 dog licence.

Sofly spoken Dominic McKevitt (54) helps out with his local St Vincent de Paul charity, and is a leading member of his resident's committee.

But last Saturday night the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern allowed Mr McKevitt to be taken from his home and banged him up in Mountjoy jail.

Mr McKevitt, from Dundalk, Co Louth, spent a few hours in Mountjoy prison after he forgot to pay for a licence for his shih-tzu pooch Nemo -- which was given to him by the Louth SPCA.

He found himself being locked up over a fine he says he never received.

"Every nerve in my body was shaking, it was like a nightmare," said Mr McKevitt, who is trying to get his life back together after facing financial and health difficulties.

"I was very afaid of the horror stories you hear. I was going in with the likes of murderers."

He lives on his own in a council house after separating from his wife and was given Nemo to keep him company.

"The gardai arrived at my house on Saturday and told me they had to arrest me for an unpaid fine and take me to Mountjoy," he said.

Apology

He revealed how he had no idea he had been summoned to court and issued with a €655 fine for failing to recognise a warning issued by a dog warden over not having a licence for little Nemo.

"My post was not being delivered and I never received any notification," he said.

Mr McKevitt said he highlighted the problem with An Post and later got a letter of apology from them for a mix-up.

But in the meantime, as a result of being in breach of a court order to pay the fine, gardai arrested him on Saturday.

"I was taken up to the garda station -- I knew some of the gardai up there -- and they couldn't believe what was going on either," he told Joe Duffy on Liveline.

"Two gardai took me to Mountjoy prison at around 6pm. It was like a nightmare. I was taken to the reception area and there was this terrible stench. You could hear shouts intermittently and they scared me no end."

At around 10pm, after using cash from his 'back to education' allowance to pay off part of the fine, Mr McKevitt was told he could find his own way home.

"I haven't slept or ate since. I just hope this doesn't happen to anyone else, all for the princely sum of €12.70," he said.

A Justice Department spokesman said new legislation currently under consideration contains measures to stop situations like Mr McKevitt's reoccurring.

mlavery@herald.ie

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