A 39-year-old detective Garda suffered psychological injuries after a prisoner defecated in his cell and rubbed his excrement over his face, the High Court was told on Monday.
Cavan based Det Garda Linda Harkin told the court that in June 2005, she had brought a cup of tea to a prisoner who had been brought in for questioning in relation to a "serious gangland murder investigation."
She told her barrister, Frank Martin, that the prisoner had not wanted to co-operate during interviews, but had not caused any trouble when she brought him meals and accompanied him on a confined recreation walk.
Det Garda Harkin told a Garda Compensation hearing that on the second day of his detention she had brought him a cup of tea which he had requested.
She had left it on his cell door hatch and had looked in to check on him. She saw that 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.
Det Garda Harkin said she was shocked when the prisoner had opened his mouth and she saw it was filled with excrement. It had been covering his teeth and she could see he was trying to swallow it. They were almost nose to nose and she feared he was going to spit it in her face.
Det Garda Harkin, of Rocklands, Cavan, is suing the State for compensation for personal injury. She claims she developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and short term anorexia.
She said the smell had been overpowering in the cell area and she had later developed a hypersensitivity to smell.
She told Mr Justice Bernard Barton that following the incident she had immediately felt sick and had gone to a sink and vomited. She felt weak and later had been unable to drive home. She was collected that evening by her husband
Judge Barton held, in a preliminary issue in the case, that the prisoner had intended maliciously attacking Det Garda Harkin and had not been acting out of an alleged psychological condition.
Barrister Esther Earley told the court that malice had to be proved in Garda Compensation cases or accepted by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform prior to a hearing that it existed in the case.
Mr Martin, who appeared with solicitor Michael Ryan for Det Garda Harkin, said it was clear that what had happened in the prisoner’s cell was “no potty training accident” as there had been toilet facilities in the cell. It had obviously been a malicious attack.
Judge Barton heard the prisoner had later been charged and convicted under the Criminal Damage Act for damage to three cell blankets and had been ordered by a District Court judge to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Judge Barton said he was satisfied the prisoner had known that Det Garda Harkin would be the one to bring him his tea or check on him and he had approached the hatch in his cell and had made sure his face would be visible close up.
After deciding the preliminary issue Judge Barton adjourned the remainder of the hearing to a date to be fixed.