A Detective Garda, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after a prisoner defecated in his cell and rubbed his excrement over his face, has been awarded €35,000 damages in the High Court.
Det Garda Linda Harkin (39) said she was shocked and distressed when the incident happened in June 2005 and thought the prisoner would spit his excrement, which he had tried to swallow, in her face.
She told her barrister, Frank Martin, that the man, who had been brought to Cavan Garda station for questioning in relation to a “serious gangland murder investigation” had requested a cup of tea.
She had left it on his cell door hatch and had looked in to check on him. She saw the prisoner had put his head close to the hatch and she could see he had excrement all over his face and in his mouth. They were almost nose to nose.
Det Garda Harkin, a married mother of two, told a Garda Compensation hearing she was horrified when the prisoner had opened his mouth and she saw it was filled with excrement. She had immediately felt sick and went to a sink and vomited. She felt weak and had to be collected by her husband as she was unable to drive home.
Det Garda Harkin, of Rocklands, Cavan, sued the State for compensation for personal injury. She claimed she suffered ongoing PTSD symptoms and had suffered short term anorexia after the incident.
Psychiatrist David Louis Magee told the court Det Garda Harkin had felt a threat to her life but had downplayed her symptoms when he was treating her. He said she had tried to get on with life, had made good progress, but her core trauma had not yet resolved.
Barrister Esther Earley, counsel for the Minister for Public Expenditure, told Judge Barton the State disagreed that the incident, although disgusting, fell within the criteria of traumatic events.
Consultant psychiatrist Patrick Devitt told the court the incident did not create a threat to Det Garda Harkin's life. He said she suffered symptoms similar to those of PTSD but had since recovered.
Judge Barton said he was satisfied Det Garda Harkin’s case would not create a “floodgate of legal proceedings” as it was a very unusual one. The judge, awarding her €35,000 damages, said he was satisfied the prisoner had intended to mentally harm Det Garda Harkin and she had suffered PTSD as a result.