Case against prison guard thrown out

A PRISON officer charged with making a false statement had his case thrown out of court yesterday.

The case was struck out after the prosecution failed to produce the Book of Evidence against the defendant, Robert O’Neill.

The prison officer, who is based at Mountjoy Jail in Dublin, was originally charged with making a false statement on May 5, 2006.

Judge Bryan Smyth struck out the case after the defence objected to a further application for a remand, pointing out that nearly two years had passed since the alleged offence.

Detective Sergeant Bob O’Reilly told the court that the alleged offence took place on May 4, 2006, and that the accused made a statement of complaint on the following day. He said the charge was under section 12a of the Criminal Law Act 1976, referring to knowingly making a false report or statement tending to show an offence had been committed.

Det Sgt O’Reilly said the matter was investigated by Mountjoy Garda Station. He said it was a “very complex” investigation and that more than 40 statements were taken, mostly from prison officers.

He said there were difficulties taking the statements, partly due to the shift nature of the prison work.

He said the file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions on October 20, 2006. He said there were queries from the DPP regarding the CCTV footage, which he said was the “kernel of the evidence”.

He said efforts were made to enhance the footage and that this took “some considerable time”, before the file was sent back to the DPP.

Det Sgt O’Reilly said the DPP directed charges be brought on December 18, but that allowing for the Christmas period and compassionate grounds, gardaí did not charge the accused until January 16, 2007.

He said essential issues, including a statement from Garda Catriona Kelleher, particularly the “seriousness of her statement”, and a statement of chief prison officer at Mountjoy, John Kelleher, had not been made clear to him until very recently.

Judge Smyth asked why these issues had not arisen before now and how the two statements had only “suddenly come to light”.

Det Sgt O’Reilly said this was as a result of DPP directions.

Defence solicitor Yvonne Bambury said her client strenuously objected to any further remand and said CCTV enhancement did not take a long time and the two statements should have been given at the time.

Judge Smyth said it was “curious” how directions had been given to bring charges, but that the Book of Evidence was not ready.

Solicitor for the DPP said she could not say why these issues had arisen at such a late stage, but said the statements and the Book of Evidence would be ready next Monday.

Judge Smyth struck the case out. Mr O’Neill, dressed in prison officer uniform, was present in court.

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