Woman who dropped her underwear in jail loses case

A woman who claimed she was told to take off her jeans going through a security check at Castlerea Prison and, as a result, accidentally dropped her underwear has lost her damages action.

Woman who dropped her underwear in jail loses case

Nataliya Matviyenko, aged 39, a Russian-speaking Ukrainian, claimed she was told by a prison officer to take off her jeans because they contained decorative metal buttons before going through a metal detector while visiting her husband.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he accepted Ms Matviyenko “genuinely believed” she was asked to remove her jeans when in fact the prison officer wanted her to remove her shoes.

The judge said he could not accept the State had breached its duty of care towards her as it could not have been reasonably foreseeable that she would react in the manner that she did. In the circumstances, the judge dismissed her case.

She sued the governor of Castlerea Prison, the Irish Prison Service, and minister for justice claiming damages for alleged negligence and breach of duty arising out of the incident on May 6, 2009.

The claims were denied.

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The mother of two, of Leas na Coille, Ballybane, Galway, claimed she had, as instructed, placed some outer garments items in a tray to pass through an X-ray machine. Before she went through a metal detector, she said she showed the prison officer metal studs or buttons on her jeans. The officer told her to take them off and she believed this meant to take off her trousers and she complied, she claimed.

She claimed she dropped her trousers as far as her knees and that process also accidentally pulled down her underwear.

Ciaran Croghan, a prison officer, said Ms Matviyenko was never asked to remove her trousers. He said she was asked to place outer garments on a tray.

Just after asking her to remove her shoes, Ms Matviyenko dropped her trousers, he said. He was “shocked”. His superior officer Chief Officer James Kelly was called to the scene. He told the court when he asked her why she dropped her trousers, she replied she was “sorry”, and “should not have done it”.

In his ruling, the judge accepted the woman was “a sincere person” who had a “genuine belief” she was requested to remove her jeans. The judge did not accept she took down her jeans in order to “insult officer Croghan or anybody else”.

Conor Power, for the State, said it was not seeking costs.

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