Limerick grandmother's civil action over syringe prick is thrown out    

Mary Ann Jackson sued gardai and Minister for Justice

David Hurley


David Hurley

Limerick grandmother's civil action over syringe prick is thrown out    

Civil action: Mary Ann Jackson

A JUDGE dismissed the case of a grandmother who was seeking damages after she was pricked by a syringe while being placed into the back of a garda patrol car.

Mary Ann Jackson, who lives at Hyde Avenue, Ballinacurra Weston initiated a civil action against the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence; The Attorney General and the Garda Commissioner following an incident on November 30, 2011.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan was told the incident happened after the now 45-year-old was arrested outside Limerick District Court in relation to a theft offence.

In her evidence, Ms Jackson, who has a large number of previous convicions, said as she was stepping into the car she felt a sting on the side of her foot.

“I took off the boot and the syringe hole was in my foot,” she said adding that it was a “nasty one”. 

During the hearing, which lasted a number of hours, Limerick Circuit Court was told the syringe was removed and placed in an evidence bag by Garda Sinead Galvin and that a doctor was later called to Henry Street garda station to examine Ms Jackson.

Dr Seamus Kilby testified that he found no evidence that the syringe had pierced the plaintiff’s skin and the court heard that blood samples taken at Limerick Prison, which were sent for analysis, came back all clear.

Ms Jackson, who denies ever using a needle to take drugs, told the court she was worried for until the results came back as “you wouldn’t know what you would pick up off a syringe”.

In her evidence, Garda Galvin said she arrested Ms Jackson as she was leaving Limerick District Court and that as she was placing her in the patrol car she quickly glanced inside but did not see the syringe. 

“She stepped in with her right leg - half her body was in - and she screamed, ‘I’ve been pricked by a syringe’.

“I saw the needle in the patrol vehicle. I put it in an evidence bag. Ms Jackson was escorted to Henry Street,” she said adding that she did not “pull” the needle from Ms Jackson’s foot.

The driver of the patrol car, Garda Philip Ellard, told the court he spent several minutes cleaning the vehicle at a petrol station on the Dock Road earlier in the morning before he took up patrol duty.

When asked by the judge if he had bent down, looked in and checked under the passenger front seat and under the mat with his bare hands, Garda Ellard replied “yes”.

After considering submissions from Michael Collins BL, for Ms Jackson and Andrew James Walker BL, for the defendants, Judge O’Callaghan said he was dismissing the claim: “I cannot not find any negligence on the part of the defendants”.

Commenting that the maximum award of damages would have been in the region of €7,000 the judge awarded the defendants their costs on the lower District Court scale.