Thursday 19 October 2017

Gardai cleared of teenager assault charges

Garda Claire Delaney pictured leaving court yesterday. Photo: COURTPIX
Garda Claire Delaney pictured leaving court yesterday. Photo: COURTPIX

Aoife Nic Ardghail and Fiona Ellis

FOUR gardai have been cleared of assaulting a teenager while his mother was falsely imprisoned in a bathroom.

Gardai Alan Conlon, Eoin Murtagh, Claire Delaney and Sean O'Leary had pleaded not guilty to forcing entry at a flat in Basin Street Upper, Dublin, and assaulting Owen Gaffney (21) causing him harm on February 17, 2008.

Gda Murtagh, Gda Conlon and Gda Delaney had also pleaded not guilty to the false imprisonment of the young man's mother, Fidelma Gaffney, at the same time in the 25-day trial.

The jury unanimously cleared all four gardai of forcing entry and trespass and found Gda Conlon, Gda Delaney and Gda Murtagh not guilty of false imprisonment.

Sobbed

Gda Delaney sobbed out loud in court and Gda O'Leary patted his male colleagues on the knee as they were acquitted.

All four gardai had been suspended from the force since the complaint was made. The case had been investigated by the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

Garda spokesman Graham Doyle spoke outside the court and said that the commission had done what it was set up to do.

Evidence

"We gathered the evidence and brought it to the appropriate forum for adjudication.

"That was our job in this as is it is in all cases. One of our functions is to promote public confidence in the police oversight system and having these cases decided upon in open court should add to that confidence."

During the trial, Mr Gaffney said Gda O'Leary hit him on the head with a baton and Gda Murtagh also went to hit him with a baton but he blocked it with his arm.

He said he was then hit "from all over the place, from every angle".

He also said he was taken to the other side of the room while "half-knocked out" and set down on a sofa.

Mr Gaffney said a garda told him "three seconds", then Gda Murtagh kicked him in the face with his boot.

Mr Gaffney denied that he had been the aggressor in the incident, that he was out of control and that Gda Conlon had sought to help his colleagues in restraining him.

He denied he had been very violent and spat at the gardai during the incident.

The jury heard Mr Gaffney had a number of previous convictions, including one for assaulting a garda.

He is currently serving a prison sentence for theft of a nun's car and criminal damage.

The teenager's mother told the court during the trial that she saw two uniformed gardai beat her son as he lay in bed and then was grabbed by the throat and arm and forced into the bathroom for about five minutes.

She said she had asked to see a warrant when gardai arrived at her door and was shown a piece of paper briefly by one garda as they walked past her.

Mr Gaffney's mother said she couldn't see into the bedroom but heard moaning coming from inside and then saw Gda Conlon come out and switch places with Gda Murtagh, who had been holding the bathroom door shut.

After the incident, Ms Gaffney bought a disposable camera in a nearby Spar shop and took pictures of her son before his father took him to hospital.

Counsel for the gardai argued evidence given by Mr Gaffney and his mother was not believable or credible and said there was no evidence that the group of gardai went to carry out a vigilante punishment beating.

Gda Conlon told the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission during the investigation that he regretted the situation "got out of hand", that he felt it was dealt with unprofessionally and he apologised.

However, he said he didn't believe the force used had been excessive.

Irish Independent

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