Thursday, 8 Dec 2022

Former prison officer caught smuggling drugs jailed

A former prison officer who was caught smuggling drugs into Maghaberry jail committed a “gross breach of trust”, a court has been told.

Stephen Brian Martin (25) was handed a 32-month sentence after arriving for work last year with packets containing cocaine, cannabis and diazepam tablets stashed in his boots.

Martin, from Wellington Park Drive in Moira, Co Down, was charged with possession with intent to supply class A and B drugs and conveying prohibited items into a prison.

He was detained on August 18 last year – just seven months after he began working as a prison officer.

Craigavon Crown Court heard that Martin initially refused to be patted down, but eventually went to a toilet block with a colleague and produced packages from his boots.

A mobile phone belonging to Martin revealed his involvement in drug-dealing inside and outside Maghaberry. Phone calls were also tracked between a prisoner’s mother and Martin talking in “coded terms” about transferring drugs into the prison.

Martin claimed he was “under duress” to supply the drugs by an inmate who had threatened him.

Crown prosecutor Ian Tannahill said Martin, whose father was a distinguished prison officer, should have known to alert authorities about his own security concerns but chose instead to bring drugs into the jail.

In mitigation, defence barrister Mr Coyle said his client’s world had come crashing down on the morning of his detection.

He added: “In that moment he realised that his career, the reputation of his family and that of the prison service were indelibly marked.

“He was also fully aware that his young career as a prison officer had come to a close.”

Jailing Martin, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said: “If the Prison Service had been aware of your drug issues, it is highly unlikely you would have been allowed into it.

“As a prison officer, you would have been only too aware of the use and misuse of drugs in terms of endangering colleagues. It is clear that assaults on prison officers are due to the supply or withdrawal of drugs.”

Due to his early guilty plea and clear record, Martin will serve 16 months in prison with the remainder on licence.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Prison Service said afterwards: “Some people are determined to smuggle drugs into prisons, the Northern Ireland Prison Service is equally determined to stop them. No matter who that is, where there is information or suspicion of bringing illegal substances into a prison, we will detect that and report those people to the police.

“We want to thank the PSNI for their assistance in today’s conviction and hope it will act as a deterrent to anyone thinking of such actions.”

Detective Inspector Keith Gawley said: “This operation is a good example of how working in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Prison Service, we can disrupt crime and clamp down on the trafficking of illicit drugs into prisons.”

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