Tue, 06 Jul, 2021 – 07:00 Aoife Moore, Political Correspondent
A female solicitor was instructed to remove her bra in order to visit her client in a Dublin prison.
In a written complaint to the Irish Prison Service, seen by the Irish Examiner, the solicitor stated that on June 11, 2020, she was “subject to a degrading incident” in Cloverhill Prison.
On approach to the search area, the alarm sounded as the solicitor passed through the security monitor, where she was directed to take off her shoes, earrings, watch, and jacket, with which she complied.
However, as she passed through a second time the monitor sounded again and she alleged in her complaint that one man, in a group of male prison officers, asked, “are you wearing any underwear?”, going on to state this was the reason the alarm was sounding.
The solicitor said she was then told she would not be able to enter the prison if the monitor continued to sound, “so I would have to take my underwear off had I wanted to gain access”.
Because the visit was urgent and regarded bail proceedings, the woman said she had “no option other than to comply with their condition on my entry”.
“At this stage, I was absolutely horrified by what was happening,” she said.
I felt extremely embarrassed and very exploited.”
Another guard told the woman she could go to the bathroom and remove her bra there.
“Not only did I feel extremely vulnerable and targeted as a woman I felt humiliated that my dignity had been so casually torn from me,” she added.
The woman said she was “close to crying because of how powerless they made me feel” and attempted to cover herself with her jacket for the remainder of the visit.
“I have attended many prisons over the past number of years, and I have never ever been treated in such a degrading manner,” she said, adding she drove home in tears after “undoubtedly one of the most traumatic experiences of my life”.
She said she has been left “unable to effectively consult with this client” and the incident has severely damaged her relationship with the barrister present.
She felt “dirty and exploited”.
“I fear I will carry this with me for a long time and the confidence I have lost in my professional capacity has not been restored,” the statement reads, adding she has not attended a prison visit since.
“I am writing this statement because I do not want any woman to feel deterred from fulfilling their role as a legal representative by being treated in such a way by the Irish Prison Service.”
The solicitor later found out a male colleague had previously attended to visit the same client and the alarm sounded three times on passing through the scanner. At no stage was any such request made of him and he was admitted entry.
She says she will seek a meeting with acting Justice Minister Heather Humphreys to discuss the incident.
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said: “The Irish Prison Service does not comment on internal matters; however, the Prison Service can confirm a complaint was received and investigated.”