Activist jailed for court attack on gardai
Published 24/03/2010 | 05:00
A LEADING Shell to Sea campaigner has been jailed for five months after launching himself "rugby-style" at three gardai in a courtroom.
Clare native Niall Harnett (44) was yesterday found guilty of assaulting the three officers at a special sitting of Belmullet District Court in Co Mayo.
Harnett, of Barnacuillew, Pollathomas, assaulted Inspector Joseph Doherty, Sergeant Dermot Butler and Garda Hugh Egan on March 11, 2009.
Judge Gerard Haughton imposed the prison sentence on Harnett for the assault charges. He cleared the accused of a breach of public order on the same date.
Harnett pleaded guilty to a charge of obstructing traffic on the public roadway at Pollathomas as a wide load was being transported from the gas terminal at Bellanaboy to Glengad.
He was fined €400 for this offence and was disqualified from driving for two years.
The defendant, who pleaded not guilty to the assault charges, said that as he approached the back of the court to leave he could see a man he knew, Pat Deane, with Sergeant Butler standing in front of him,
He said he could see from the expression on Mr Deane's face that he was uncomfortable and he asked him if he wanted him to witness the conversation. It was his view that Pat Deane was being detained.
Harnett said he was aggressively pushed aside by Sergeant Butler. He claimed the officer had grabbed his rucksack containing his laptop, files and camera and thrown it towards the door.
He further claimed he had been "flung around" and "manhandled" by the gardai as he tried to get his bag. It was completely untrue that he had assaulted Inspector Doherty by launching himself into the officer's back, he said.
Harnett denied that when asked to leave the courtroom by gardai he "lost the head" and did not want to go. He also denied "shouting" and "roaring" and that he charged into Inspector Doherty's back on two occasions. It was possible he "bumped into him", he said
Convicting the defendant on the assault charges, Judge Haughton said he had made what he described as "a reckless attempt" to get into the court directing force at Sergeant Butler and Garda Egan.
"Nothing could be clearer," the judge said.