Garda gets €33,000 for fuel theft claim
A FORMER garda sergeant was awarded €33,000 in damages yesterday for defamation taken against a leading opponent of the Corrib Gas project.
James Gill, who retired from the gardai last month, won his action for damages and aggravated damages against Pat O'Donnell, known as 'The Chief'.
Mr Gill (52), of Crossmolina, Co Mayo, had claimed that he was branded a thief and a smuggler in loud comments made in public by Mr O'Donnell (54), of Porturlin, Ballina, Co Mayo.
Mr Gill told Castlebar Circuit Court on Wednesday that on the morning of November 3, 2006, he was in charge of a group of about 15 gardai among a force of 150 policing a Shell to Sea protest in Bellanaboy.
Mr O'Donnell shouted at him: "You stole diesel and you smuggled tyres across the border."
Mr Gill said he felt stressed and embarrassed and his health suffered as a result.
He said it would damage him in his career, sully his reputation and affect his family. He went to his GP and was later referred to a clinical psychologist, who diagnosed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Pat O'Donnell denied that he had made the remarks complained of. "I said nothing to Sergeant Gill," he told the court.
Taking all of the evidence into account, including that of Mr Gill's doctors, Judge Margaret Heneghan said she believed he was entitled to €27,500 in general damages and aggravated damages of €5,500 along with his costs.
Mr O'Donnell confirmed that he would appeal the judgment.