A PAIR of Scottish friends who hit two off duty gardaí with bottles after they wrongly believed the victims were threatening them have avoided jail terms.
Ray Johnstone (46) and Philip Flaherty (42) who both work in casinos in Dublin, had been drinking in Flannery’s Pub on Camden Street when there was a small disagreement after one of them bumped off another customer there.
A few minutes later the same group of men, including off duty gardaí Richard Cloonan and Patrick Hanley, gathered near Johnstone.
Johnstone later explained in interview that at this point he felt threatened by the group and “became the aggressor in order to defend myself”. He picked up the beer bottle he had been drinking out of and struck Gda Hanley over the head with it.
Flaherty then hit Gda Cloonan over the head smashing the bottle and struck the victim again when the man put his hand up to protect himself.
Gda Cloonan was left with a large cut to his hand which required six stitches. He also had cuts and scrapes to his head and neck.
The bottle struck Gda Hanley just over his right eye and he was left with a bump and cuts to his face.
Johnstone with an address at Camden Deluxe Hotel, Camden Street, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting Gda Hanley causing him harm, while Flaherty also of Camden Deluxe Hotel, pleaded guilty to assaulting Gda Cloonan causing him harm on November 1, 2011.
Neither man has previous convictions and both have been living in Ireland for a number of years. Both had €2,500 each in court to offer their victims as a token of their remorse.
Judge Martin Nolan said the men had “for some irrational reason felt they were under threat but I am satisfied their feelings were not based in reality”.
He accepted both men had co-operated with the garda investigation, pleaded guilty at an early stage and had shown genuine remorse for their actions on the night.
Judge Nolan said it was “a very close run thing” but he would not impose a custodial sentence on either man after he said he was satisfied that the assault carried out by Flaherty was the more serious.
He sentenced Johnstone to three years which he suspended in full on condition that he hand over €3,000 to Gda Hanley immediately and an additional €1,500 in the next 12 months.
Flaherty received a four year suspended sentence on condition that he also hand over the €2,500 to Gda Cloonan and a further €4,500 within a year.
Garda Emmet Hayde told Vincent Heneghan BL, prosecuting, that Gda Cloonan said he was dragged backwards after he was hit to the back of the head which led to scratches and cuts to his neck.
Gda Hanley said he stumbled backwards when the bottle was smashed in his face but he managed to re-gain his balance and grab his attacker.
Johnstone was arrested at the scene after he was restrained by the victim and his friends while Flaherty was arrested a few days later when gardai viewed CCTV footage of the assault.
Gda Hayde agreed with Sean Guerin BL, defending Johnstone, that the doormen in Flannery’s knew his client in a favourable way, and were surprised by his behaviour on the night.
Mr Guerin said Johnstone felt under threat which he accepted was “entirely misplaced and probably irrational” but said it arose out of a situation were his client had too much drink on the night.
He asked Judge Nolan to accept that his client did not go looking for a weapon and just used what was to hand and added Johnstone wanted to offer his sincerest apologies to Gda Hanley
Gda Hayde agreed with Luigi Rea BL, defending Flaherty, that his client is so embarrassed by his behaviour that he has not retuned to Flannery’s Pub since.
Mr Rea said Flaherty, who is originally from Glasgow, is a divorced man with an 18-year-old daughter.
He said he has no drink or drug problem and asked the court to accept that it was not a premeditated offence.