Sunday 24 September 2017

Garda convicted of assaulting two women in 'difficult situation financially', court hears

Garda Brian Hanrahan at court. Photo: Tony Gavin
Garda Brian Hanrahan at court. Photo: Tony Gavin
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A GARDA convicted of assault causing harm to two young women in a row over a €15 fee for a lift home had his sentencing adjourned to allow for preparation of an expert psychological report.

Garda Brian Hanrahan (34), who survived a 2015 holiday shooting in the US, will be now sentenced before Nenagh District Court on June 22 next.

Judge Elizabeth MacGrath was told that Mr Hanrahan had fully engaged with the Probation and Welfare Service (PWS) since his conviction last February.

However, solicitor Caitriona Dwane said Mr Hanrahan thought that the PWS would direct him as regards the psychological report recommended by Judge MacGrath.

The PWS informed him this was not the case and the psychological report was entirely a matter for himself to organise.

Ms Dwane said Mr Hanrahan had then gone to consultant psychologist Dr Brian O'Keeffe for an assessment.

But Dr O'Keeffe had seen the young Garda when he was assessed before returning to official duties after he was shot while on holidays in the US two years ago.

Dr O'Keeffe was concerned that his prior dealings with Mr Hanrahan might represent a conflict.

However, neither Judge MacGrath nor Sergeant Michael Keating, for the State, had any difficulty arising with Dr O'Keeffe compiling the report for the court once he was personally happy to do so.

Judge MacGrath adjourned the matter for two months to allow ample time for the expert report to be prepared.

Ms Dwane also pointed out to the court that her client faces financial issues.

"He is in a difficult situation financially at the moment," she said.

Mr Hanrahan had vehemently denied punching the two women in an unprovoked attack near an isolated Tipperary cemetery last year.

However, Judge Elizabeth MacGrath convicted the young Newcastlewest-based garda of assault causing harm last February following a day long trial.

In convicting Mr Hanrahan, she noted that an independent witness, a security guard driving home, had seen a man with red hair holding a woman by her hair near Lisboney cemetery.

Judge MacGrath also noted inconsistencies in Garda Hanrahan's evidence including his initial claim in a 999 call made from the scene that he had been confronted by six or eight people and "fought them all off."

"I have found that Mr Hanrahan's account on the night in the 999 call was not accurate," she said.

Judge MacGrath also noted that, in his 999 call, Mr Hanrahan said those confronting him were: "a f***ing crowd of psychopaths."

The garda's legal team said the convictions would have "devastating consequences" for him.

Mr Hanrahan is a married father of two whose children are aged just six months and three years old.

The two young women at the centre of the incident, Emer Kelly and Aisling King, had sobbed while giving evidence about the assaults which occurred when they had asked the young garda for a promised €15 for the lift home.

In victim impact statements, they said they had always respected Gardai but, after the assaults, they were now afraid of Gardai.

"Because of that night I will not drive my car on my own at night," Aisling King said.

Emer Kelly said she couldn't sleep over what happened.

"I couldn't believe that a guard could do this to me. The Gardai are meant to be there to help you," she said.

She said the garda's claim that she had attacked him that night "really hurt."

Garda Hanrahan, who was off duty on March 5/6 2016, insisted to the court he only acted in self-defence after he claimed one of the young women “launched herself” at him in a row over the lift fee.

“She (Emer Kelly) got out of the car and attacked me. She wanted me to pay €50. The last thing I wanted or desired was an altercation of any description after what had happened in New Orleans (the shooting),” he said.

“I did everything I could to stop it (the confrontation). I wasn’t trying to hurt her. I was trying to stop her. I couldn't get away from her. She was kind of stunned (after the blow). Then she sat down and started crying.”

“If I hit her the way she said I hit her she would be black and blue all over.”

“I am sorry she sustained an injury - but if I am attacked I am going to defend myself,” he said.

Michelle O'Connell, for the State, said Gardaí became aware of an incident in Nenagh at around 4am on March 6 last.

Ms Kelly was in Nenagh with her friends Aisling King and Ellen Nyhill in her new car.

Mr Hanrahan approached the young women and agreed to pay them €15 to €20 for a lift to his home at Ballintotty, Nenagh.

None of the women knew him.

“It was a weird situation after a while. He was very rude. He said that Nenagh was full of scumbags,” Ms Kelly said.

Mr Hanrahan also described Nenagh as “a sh** hole” and “a kip.”

When one of the young women joked that Nenagh men would not like to hear such derogatory comments about their town, Ms Kelly said Mr Hanrahan replied that he would fight anyone who took him on.

The women then asked Mr Hanrahan to get out of their car.

He immediately complied and exited the vehicle near Lisboney cemetery.

“Aisling went to drive off but I said I will ask him for the money. I didn't want her to leave without him giving her something,” Ms Kelly said.

“The door was between me and Brian. He pulled my hair and beat me to the ground,” Ms Kelly sobbed.

“He kicked me in the face while I was on the ground.”

“I covered my head. I left my mouth open and that is why the damage was caused to my teeth.”

Ms Kelly subsequently required €510 worth of dental repair treatment.

“He kicked or punched me about six or eight times I couldn't touch my mouth it was so sore.”

Ms Kelly, who is 5 ft in height, rejected defence claims that she had attacked Mr Hanrahan who is 6ft tall.

Aisling King said she jumped out of the car when she realised something was happening with her friend.

“He had pulled her hair. Then she (Emer) was on the ground. He was hitting her. It seemed to go on forever,” Ms King wept.

“I said stop, stop, please stop. Please. But he hit me twice in the face. There was blood all over Emer’s face.”

Ms Nyhill rang the gardaí.

A passing motorist, Eddie Ryan, stopped to help the young women.

“I saw Mr Hanrahan holding her (a young woman) by the hair,” he said.

Mr Hanrahan of Newcastlewest Garda Station, Co Limerick denied two assaults contrary to Section 3 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act.

He insisted he only acted in self defence.

The young garda made headlines in 2015 when he was shot while on holidays in New Orleans in the US.

He had been withdrawing cash from an ATM when an armed robber attacked and shot him.

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