Former Garda repeatedly stabbed awarded 'record' €1.1m damages
A young member of the garda drugs squad, who was repeatedly stabbed and seriously injured while making an arrest, has been awarded over €1m damages.
Mr Justice Bernard Barton, in handing down his reserved judgment, told barrister Paul O’Neill, counsel for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, that Garda Daryl Mullen had suffered serious physical injuries.
The judge said the 38-year-old former garda of Slieve Bracken, Gortlee, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, had suffered a vicious assault and battery seven years ago while on duty in James Street, Westport, Co Mayo.
Judge Barton, in a Garda Compensation case, said he was awarding Mr Mullen €1,093,179. He told Eoin McCullough SC, who appeared with barrister Pat Purcell for Mullen, he was awarding €400,000 general damages, €300,000 special damages, and €348,179 for loss of earnings, pension and gratuity.
Liam Guidera, of Mason Hayes Curran solicitors for Mr Mullen, said after the judgment he believed the award was a record one in the area of garda compensation.
Judge Barton said that in august 2009 the then 32-year-old garda, formerly from Tuam, Co Galway, was on plain clothes duty with a unit of the drugs squad during a street festival in Westport.
He and his colleagues had been carrying out searches for illicit drugs and as he confronted a group acting suspiciously one of them produced a knife “which he drove into the left side of Garda Mullen’s abdomen.”
Judge Barton said the assailant, who had later been charged and jailed, had repeatedly stabbed Garda Mullen causing what he described as “horrific internal injuries.”
He bled profusely and was rushed to the operating theatre of Mayo General Hospital where he had undergone emergency major surgery. Afterwards he had been in the intensive care unit for a week.
He had suffered serious injuries to his groin, stomach and lungs and later developed MRSA during ongoing treatment in University College Hospital, Galway. He had suffered serious pain.
Judge Barton said that in 2011 Garda Mullen, now married with a family, had been certified fit to return to light duties. He was assigned as a detective garda but his hopes of gradual improvement of his symptoms and continuation of service as a garda detective were not to be realised.
Garda Mullen, following further surgery, had suffered devastating psychological consequences, not the least of which was that he never again obtained a fitness certificate to return to work. He was discharged on the grounds of ill health.
Following the release from prison of his assailant to the Westport/Castlebar area, Mr Mullen and his wife and family moved to Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
The judge said Mr Mullen, apart from pain-killing medication including injection therapy, continued to receive counselling and antidepressant medication.
“In this regard his evidence was that he sees no end to these problems, nor any future for himself,” Judge Barton said. “Although he can drive short journeys he has become socially withdrawn, remaining most of the time at home, the only place where he feels secure and safe.”
A doctor who treated Garda Mullen told the court improvement would be slow. He had supported Mr Mullen’s decision to retire on health grounds even from light duties. In the doctor’s view there was a connection between his role in the gardai and the profoundly negative and ongoing consequences of the assault.
Judge Barton said it was the view of gthe court that such improvement as may likely occur in relation to his injuries it was unlikely to be such as would result in his being able to secure and retain a stress-free basic employment resulting in any meaningful income.
Mr O’Neill, for the State, appeared with Mr Colm Smyth SC.