Maghaberry prison officer charged with drug-dealing

By Will Leitch

Image source, Justin Kernoghan
Image caption,
The charges follow an investigation into trafficking of prohibited items into Maghaberry prison

A serving prison officer charged with dealing drugs inside a high-security jail is a "key player in an organised crime gang", a court has been told.

Stephen Martin appeared in court in Lisburn charged with 16 drugs offences, including supplying cocaine and cannabis inside Maghaberry Prison.

The 23-year-old is also charged with misconduct in public office.

Dressed in a suit, the bearded prison officer said he understood the charges against him. Bail was refused.

Drugs in boots

He was arrested after he arrived for work on Friday with packages containing suspected cocaine, cannabis and diazepam tablets stashed in his boots.

Lisburn Magistrates' Court heard that when he was stopped, Mr Martin initially refused to be searched until the prison liaison officer was present.

Giving evidence, a detective constable said the accused later agreed to be searched, and had removed the two packages from his boots, indicated they were drugs, and said he was acting under duress.

Image caption,
A quantity of drugs was seized as part of an investigation into trafficking of prohibited items into Maghaberry Prison

The court heard Mr Martin subsequently told detectives he had been forced to collect drugs from the mother of a prisoner, and deliver them to her son.

"He was in over his head and put under pressure by a prisoner to bring these items in and foolishly he succumbed," a defence lawyer told the court.

The police detective told the court that drugs and other related paraphernalia had been found at the home of the accused.

An examination of his phone indicated he was using and dealing in drugs both outside and inside the prison, said the detective.

"He is a key player in an organised crime gang," said the officer. "Without him this activity couldn't happen within the prison."

Charges against the officer include:

  • Possession with intent to supply class A, B and C drugs
  • Conspiracy to supply the same three classes of drugs
  • Misconduct in a public office
  • Conveying prohibited items into a prison

Mr Martin is due to appear before the same court, via video-link, on 18 September.

Two women, aged 55 and 26, were arrested as part of the same police investigation at the prison, and have been released on bail pending further inquiries.