Mistaken arrest and jailing leads to €33,000 damages

 

A HIGH Court jury has awarded a man €33,000 damages over his wrongful arrest and 26-hour incarceration in Mountjoy Prison over an administrative mistake.

Truck driver Thomasz Porebski, a Polish national, Carriglea Walk, Tallaght, Dublin, had sued the Garda Commissioner and the Courts Service alleging wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and assault and battery at Tallaght Garda station on August 13th, 2006.

The defendants, who initially denied the claims, later accepted he had been wrongfully arrested due to a mistake in reissuing a warrant committing him to prison over a conviction relating to driving without insurance.

Mr Porebski had successfully appealed that conviction, as the insurance documents had always been in order.

Given the defendants’ admissions, a High Court jury was asked to assess damages only.

Following nearly 2½ hours of deliberations yesterday, the jury told Mr Justice Éamon de Valera it had assessed damages at €33,000, including €18,000 in aggravated damages.

The court heard Mr Porebski’s arrest arose from the reissue of a warrant relating to insurance documentation for his employer’s truck – which were always in order – but which resulted in a prosecution, subsequently dismissed on appeal.

It was stated that Mr Porebski was stopped by gardaí in Blessington on April 3rd, 2004, and told to produce his insurance at a Garda station within 10 days. His employer undertook to attend to the matter, but failed to do so.

As a result, summonses were issued and served at Mr Porebski’s workplace, but he was never made aware of this. In April 2005, he was convicted without his knowledge and sentenced in his absence to three months imprisonment at Naas District Court for having no insurance. When the conviction was brought to his attention, he lodged an appeal to the Circuit Court, which allowed it on July 14th, 2005, because all his insurance documents were in order.

However, that same day, a Garda superintendent applied for the reissue of the original District Court order committing him to prison for three months. This was done negligently and in breach of duty by the commissioner and his servants or agents, it was claimed.

The Courts Service also acted negligently and in breach of duty by failing to notify the relevant District Court judge that the matter on which the reissued committal to prison order was based had been the subject of a successful appeal, it was also claimed.

On August 13th, 2005, Mr Porebski was involved in a minor traffic incident and went to his local Garda station to report the matter. To his shock, he was told there was an outstanding warrant for his committal to prison

Despite his attempts to explain that the matter had been successfully appealed, he was arrested and brought to Mountjoy.

He remained there for 26 hours until it was discovered there had been a mistake, it was claimed.

He suffered considerable distress and embarrassment, with people in his community becoming aware he had been imprisoned, although wrongfully, and his good name and reputation were lowered as a result, he said.