Journalist refuses to reveal sources about phone in bra story

Prison worker was found to have mobile in her bra-strap at Mountjoy Prison

A journalist has refused before the High Court to reveal his sources for an article about a prison worker found to have a mobile telephone in her bra-strap when going through a security check at the Mountjoy Prison complex.

The article said an unnamed prison worker had been suspended after being caught trying to smuggle a mobile phone into a jail hidden inside her bra.

Irish Daily Star journalist Michael O’Toole declined to answer that or several other questions put to him by counsel, saying to do so could identify a sources or sources which he had a duty to protect.

Mr O’Toole confirmed he wrote the story and said he verified its contents which were based on information given to him by confidential sources. He accepted he had contacted a press officer with the Prison Service and put the contents of his story to them for comment.


When he wrote the article, the issue of mobile phones getting into prisons was a very serious issue of public interest, he said. That arose from an incident in 2007 when an inmate of Portlaoise prison, John Daly, made a call from a mobile phone to RTÉ’s Liveline show.

Mr O'Toole said Ms Boyle was not named in the article and had not complained about it to the Press Council or taken defamation proceedings against the newspaper.

He was giving evidence after Mr Justice Anthony Barr ruled he had to testify in Ms Boyle's action against the Governor of St Patrick's Institution, Irish Prison Services, Minister for Justice and the State arising from an incident that occurred on September 3rd 2008. The judge also ruled he was not required to reveal his confidential sources for the article.

At that time of the incident, Ms Boyle, an employee of Dublin VEC, had been teaching in the prison system for 15 years and was teaching at St Patrick’s institution for young offenders.

She claims she forgot she had the phone on her person. As a result of the incident, her security clearance allowing her enter the prison was revoked and she has not worked in the prison system since an investigation was launched into the matter.

Ms Boyle, Donagher’s Lane, Prosperous, Co Kildare, is seeking damages, including punitive damages, for personal injuries allegedly suffered as a result of the incident. The claims are denied by the defendants.

As part of her action Ms Boyle’s lawyers subpoenaed Mr O’Toole, but the judge refused his application to set aside the subpoena.

She claims the article distorted what had occurred and breached her rights including to privacy, fair procedures and to be employed freely within the State. The Prison Service should not have disclosed material to the media, she also claims.

The defendants deny the claims.

Following Mr O’Toole’s evidence, Richard Humphreys SC, for the defence, applied to have the case dismissed on grounds Ms Boyle had failed to make out her claim. Ms Boyle’s lawyers will respond to that application when the case resumes on Tuesday.