Prison officer felt ‘under real threat’

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A prison officer accused of smuggling drugs into a high-security jail claims he acted under threat from an inmate being held for “grave” offences, the High Court heard today.

Stephen Martin, 23, was bringing his second consignment into HMP Maghaberry when packages of suspected cocaine, cannabis and diazepam were discovered in his boots last week, a judge was told.

Prosecutors said the haul, valued at £3,000 on the streets, could be worth 10 times as much within the prison’s confines.

It was also revealed that police expect to make further arrests as part of their investigation into the network behind the drug-trafficking racket.

Details emerged as Martin, of Willow Lodge in Ballinderry, Co Antrim, was refused bail.

He faces charges of possessing Class A, B and C drugs with intent to supply; conspiracy to supply; misconduct in a public office; and conveying prohibited items into a prison.

Martin, who began working as a prison officer earlier this year, was detained as he arrived for work on August 18.

After refusing initial requests to be searched, the court heard he then removed packets from his boots and claimed to have acted under duress. The packages included:

:: 100 suspected diazepam tablets.

:: 16g of suspected herbal cannabis.

:: 35.4g of white powder, believed to be cocaine.

A Crown lawyer claimed CCTV footage depicts Martin acting suspiciously around prisoners on a number of occasions.

The accused is suspected of handing out drugs in a storeroom not covered by the cameras.

Searches carried out at Martin’s home recovered further quantities of suspected cannabis, cocaine, anabolic steroids, needles, electronic scales and so-called “deal bags”, the court heard.

Opposing bail, the prosecutor submitted: “Police say this applicant is part of a wider criminal network, and is integrally involved (in) drugs being used and supplied both inside and outside the prison environment.”

He contended that Martin’s Facebook account was deleted after his arrest in a deliberate attempt to disrupt the evidence-gathering process.

Peter Coiley, defending, argued that the accused immediately told police that he acted under threat.

A prisoner allegedly approached Martin to say he knew all his personal detail, including the address and car registration numbers for him and his girlfriend.

“He was to be provided with a telephone number, arrangements would be made and he was to bring drugs into the prison,” Mr Coiley said.

“He instructs me this was the second occasion that he brought packages in.”

The barrister continued: “The applicant was aware of the offences the prisoner who approached him was in custody for, these were grave offences, and he took this as a credible threat to his security and that of his partner.”

Martin felt unable to either follow the relevant protocol or able to approach his father - also a serving prison officer - through “shame”, according to Mr Coiley.

“He thought if he complied with the task assigned to him that would be the end of the matter,” counsel added.

“The problem is once he brought in the first amount he was approached again. It was a vicious circle he got into.”

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Stephens cited the risk of interference with the course of justice.

The judge also held: “There is a prima facie case of a wider network involved, on the facts of this case, where the applicant has disregarded his position of trust.”