Laois woman punched female prison officer in the face at courthouse

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Portlaoise courthouse

Prison officer assaulted at Portlaoise Courthouse

A Stradbally woman has been convicted of punching a female prison officer in the face in a holding cell at Portlaoise Courthouse.

At this week's Portlaoise District Court, Samantha Monaghan (23), with an address at Tullamoy, Stradbally, was charged with assault, at Portlaoise Courthouse, on October 25, 2018.

The injured party, Ms Amanda Sutton, an ACO in the prison service, gave evidence that she was in charge of escorting the accused from the Dóchas Centre on that date. The accused was in a holding cell at the courthouse when she became aggressive, telling the officer that she wanted to make a phone call.

Ms Sutton said the accused threatened to box her.

Later that day, at lunchtime, Ms Sutton went into the cell to tell the accused to finish her food, but the accused threw the food at Ms Sutton and charged at her, trying to hit her.

Ms Sutton said the accused did not actually strike her at this point and a fellow officer came in to assist in restraining the accused.

At this point, the accused struck Ms Sutton by punching her to the right cheek.

The accused was then handcuffed and brought to the prison van, where she calmed down.

Ms Sutton said she suffered no bruises, but had a sore jaw for a week after. She did not require medical attention.

Prison officer Liam Nolan gave evidence that he heard a commotion and ran into the room. He said there was “a shemozzle” in the room and he saw the accused hit Ms Sutton on the cheek.

Defence, Mr Aonghus McCarthy asked for the court to acquit his client, as he claimed her constitutional right to liberty had been taken from her. He said there was an absence of evidence from the State that the accused’s custody had been lawful.

However, Judge Catherine Staines said she was not holding with defence’s argument, as both prison officers had given evidence that the accused was being escorted from the Dóchas. She said she was satisfied the custody was lawful.

“You’re not allowed to assault someone, whether you’re walking around, on bail, or in custody,” said Judge Staines.

Mr McCarthy then argued that the accused still had the right to bodily integrity while in custody. He said that Ms Sutton had given evidence that she and Mr Nolan had restrained the accused before the punch. In restraining her she had lost her right to bodily integrity, he said.

Judge Staines said the accused had tried to attack Ms Sutton and Mr Nolan came to her assistance.

“Ms Sutton has the right to bodily integrity, too,” said Judge Staines.

The court heard that the accused had 23 previous convictions.

In mitigation, Mr McCarthy said that the accused had been taking drugs at the time of the offence. He said she has now engaged with seeking treatment.

Telling the accused to write a letter of apology, Judge Staines adjourned the case to April 23 next for a probation report.

The judge also directed that €500 from the court poor box go to Ms Sutton.