A FORMER rugby playing garda, who tackled and arrested two runaway drunken drivers in a 24-hour period, has been awarded €73,000 damages for injuries he received in taking down both of them.
Sgt Thomas Kelly injured his knee when he wrestled one would-be escaper down a 10 feet deep dyke and was later kicked in the chest as he swung on the leg of another drunk driver as he attempted to scale up a wall, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard.
Barrister Aidan Walsh, SC, told the Garda Compensation hearing that Sgt Kelly refused to take time off work as advised by his doctor and arranged light duties for himself until he felt better.
Mr Walsh, counsel for Sgt Kelly, said the 6ft 2in 17 stone former lock forward, now aged 40, apprehended both drunken drivers on consecutive night duties while stationed in Cashel, Co Tipperary, in July 2004.
Judge Irvine said Sgt Kelly, of Garnavilla, Cahir, Co Tipperary, who is now stationed in Carrick-on-Suir, was obviously very committed to his work. Despite having been injured in the first arrest on July 19, 2004, he insisted on returning to night duty the following day when he had again been injured in a second chase and arrest.
The court heard he had self medicated for almost a fortnight before seeing his doctor who recommend he take time off work. Instead, Sgt Kelly had organised with his superiors that he would continue with light duties in the station.
Mr Walsh said that on the first occasion the then Garda Kelly had fallen down an embankment with the man he was arresting. He had fallen into water and on stones.
In the second incident the driver had run off down a cul-de-sac and at the back of a disused pub had attempted to scale a wall. Garda Kelly had grabbed his leg and was kicked in the chest, falling back onto the steel frame of an old bar stool. The driver had fallen on top of him.
Judge Irvine said Sgt Kelly had given up rugby in 1995 following an operation on his knee. After recovering he had continued to play hurling and soccer until the assaults in 2004 but had since been unable to play any contact sports.
She said his knee had fully recovered before the 2004 assaults during which he had also suffered neck, shoulder and back injuries.
Judge Irvine awarded him €50,000 for his injuries to date with a further €20,000 for future suffering and pain as well as €3,000 special damages.