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  1. ITV Report

Court hears prison officer ‘key drug trafficking player’

Stephen Martin had only been a prison officer since January. Credit: Pacemaker

A prison officer charged with trafficking drugs into high-security Maghaberry Prison is alleged to be a “key player” in an organised crime gang.

Lisburn Magistrates’ Court heard that Stephen Brian Martin, 23, was arrested at the prison on Friday after arriving for work with suspected cocaine, cannabis and diazepam stashed in his boots.

A PSNI detective constable told a district judge that the accused played a central role in a drug trafficking racket both within the prison and outside in the wider community.

The court heard that CCTV evidence from inside Maghaberry showed Martin “acting suspiciously” with prisoners.

The detective further alleged that the prison officer handed over drugs to inmates in a storeroom away from the cameras.

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

– PSNI

Evidence in the case was also said to include a recorded telephone conversation involving a prisoner and his mother which, though coded, appeared to reference the transportation of drugs into Maghaberry.

Police believe Martin was the man who was to take those drugs inside the high-security facility.

The officer told the judge that a phone number for the prisoner’s mother was found in Martin’s car.

He said a subsequent search of Martin's house recovered suspected cannabis, cocaine, anabolic steroids and needles along with paraphernalia including “deal bags”.

A mobile phone was also recovered from the property which, the officer claimed, contained “insurmountable” evidence of Martin's involvement in drug dealing inside and outside Maghaberry.

The detective said there was also evidence that social media postings which indicated Martin’s involvement in the drugs trade had been deleted since his arrest.

Applying for bail, Martin’s defence lawyer claimed he had been forced to bring items into the prison by an inmate who had threatened him and claimed to know where he and his girlfriend lived.

“This person came to him and said: ‘I know your girlfriend's name, I know your car registration, I know your address’,” he told the court.

He added: “He perceived this to be a credible threat against him and his family.”

He was in over his head and put under pressure by a prisoner to bring these items in and, foolishly, he succumbed.

– Defence solicitor

District judge Rosemary Watters rejected the bail bid and remanded Martin into custody.

She agreed with the police objections that the accused posed a risk of offending if bailed, and could potentially interfere with the ongoing investigation.

She further said Martin should have known to alert prison authorities if he was subject to any threats from prisoners.

Martin, who spoke only to confirm his name and that he understood the charges, has only been employed as a prison officer since January, having previously worked for a pharmaceutical company for six years.

He faces a total of 16 charges, including possession with intent to supply class A, B and C drugs; conspiracy to supply drugs; misconduct in a public office; and conveying prohibited items into a prison.

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