Prison officer a ‘key player’ in drugs gang, court told

Stephen Brian Martin arrested after allegedly arriving at jail with suspected cocaine

Stephen Brian Martin (23), was arrested at Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland on Friday after allegedly arriving for work with packets containing suspected cocaine, cannabis and diazepam tablets stashed in his boots. File photograph: Google Street View

Stephen Brian Martin (23), was arrested at Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland on Friday after allegedly arriving for work with packets containing suspected cocaine, cannabis and diazepam tablets stashed in his boots. File photograph: Google Street View

 

A prison officer charged with dealing drugs inside a high-security jail is a “key player” in an organised crime gang, a court has been told.

Stephen Brian Martin (23), was arrested at Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland on Friday after allegedly arriving for work with packets containing suspected cocaine, cannabis and diazepam tablets stashed in his boots.

A detective constable told a district judge that Mr Martin played a central role in a drug-trafficking racket within the prison and in the wider community.

“He is a key player in an organised crime gang,” said the officer.

“Without him this activity couldn’t happen within the prison.”

‘Forced into it’

Applying for bail at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court, Mr Martin’s defence lawyer claimed he had been forced into bringing the items into the prison by an inmate who had threatened him that he knew where he and his girlfriend lived.

“He was in over his head and put under pressure by a prisoner to bring these items in - and foolishly he succumbed,” the solicitor told the court.

District judge Rosemary Watters rejected the attempt to secure bail and remanded Mr Martin into custody. She agreed with police objections that the accused posed a risk of offending if allowed bail, and could potentially interfere with the ongoing investigation.

Confirmed name

Dressed in a grey three-piece suit, white shirt and blue tie, a bearded Mr Martin spoke only twice to confirm his name and that he understood the charges. He sat looking downward during Monday’s remand hearing.

The officer faces a total of 16 charges - including possession with intent to supply class A, B and C drugs; conspiracy to supply the same three classes of drugs; misconduct in public office, and conveying prohibited items into a prison.

He is due to appear before the same court, via video-link, on September 18th next.

The court heard Mr Martin’s father is also a prison officer, and that his mother formerly worked for the service.

The accused has only been employed as a prison officer since January, having previously worked for a pharmaceutical company for six years.

The court was told that, when Mr Martin arrived for work on Friday, he was asked to undergo a search. He refused and subsequently admitted he had two bags of drugs concealed in his boots, claiming he was “under duress” to take them into the prison. He was then arrested by police.

‘Acting suspiciously’

The court heard that CCTV evidence obtained from inside Maghaberry showed Mr Martin “acting suspiciously” with prisoners. The detective alleged that the prison officer handed over drugs to inmates in a storeroom, away from the cameras.

He said evidence in the case also included a recorded telephone conversation involving a prisoner and his mother which, though coded, appeared to refer to the transfer of drugs into Maghaberry.

Police believe Mr Martin was the man who was to take the drugs inside.

Stephen Brian Martin’s defence lawyer claimed he had been forced into bringing the items into Maghaberry Prison (above) by an inmate who had threatened him that he knew where he and his girlfriend lived. File photograph: Google Street View
Stephen Brian Martin’s defence lawyer claimed he had been forced into bringing the items into Maghaberry Prison (above) by an inmate who had threatened him that he knew where he and his girlfriend lived. File photograph: Google Street View

The officer told the judge the prisoner’s mother’s phone number was found in Mr Martin’s car.

He said a subsequent search of Mr Martin’s house recovered suspected cannabis, cocaine, anabolic steroids and needles along with paraphernalia including “deal bags”.

A mobile phone was also recovered from the property which, the officer claimed, contained “insurmountable” evidence of Mr Martin’s involvement in drug-dealing inside and outside Maghaberry.

Social media postings

He said that during police interview, the defendant repeatedly refused to name anyone else involved in the alleged criminal enterprise. The detective said there was also evidence that social media postings which indicated his involvement in the drugs trade had been deleted since his arrest.

Mr Martin’s solicitor said a prisoner had forced his client to take drugs into the jail.

“This person came to him and said ‘I know your girlfriend’s name, I know your car registration, I know your address’,” he told the court.

He added: “He perceived this to be a credible threat against him and his family.”

The lawyer said the anabolic steroids found in Martin’s house were used by him for weightlifting, and he claimed the needles were “tanning” injections he was using before going on holiday.

“He was supposed to be going on holiday with his girlfriend this morning,” he added.

The solicitor said the accused’s girlfriend was standing by him. He said his father and grandfather had attended court for the remand hearing and were willing to provide sureties for bail.

“His father is devastated by this but he is supporting his son,” he said.

The detective rejected the theory that Mr Martin was acting under duress, claiming the recorded CCTV exchanges with prisoners appeared “jovial”.

“He doesn’t appear to be under duress,” he said.

Judge Watters said Mr Martin should have known to alert prison authorities if he was subject to any threats from prisoners.

The detective constable said police also had a “public safety” concern around granting bail, given that the illicit drugs trade had been responsible for deaths in Northern Ireland.

Two women, aged 26 and 55, were arrested on Friday in connection with the investigation.

Drugs were also recovered during searches in Lisburn and Dungannon.

The women were subsequently released on bail pending further inquiries.

Press Association