Thursday 19 October 2017

Sergeant pulled to floor and bitten during incident with member of McBrearty family awarded €55k

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Stock picture

Tim Healy

A GARDA sergeant injured during an incident with a member of the McBrearty family from Donegal has been awarded more than €55,000 in compensation by the High Court.

Niall Davey, who is now the detective sergeant in charge of the Sligo/Leitrim drugs unit, was injured when he intervened to prevent John McBrearty attacking his (McBrearty's) father while they were both in Letterkenny Garda Station on May 2, 2011.  He sued the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The court heard John had been arrested in a Lifford pub on public order charges following an altercation with the barman and he was brought to Letterkenny station.

When his father arrived, John started making allegations about his treatment in custody but the father was satisfied this was not the case, Sgt Davey told the court.

At that point, John accused his father of "never believing him or supporting him in anything and a very physical altercation ensued".

Sgt Davey and the officer in charge of the station had to intervene and the sergeant told John he had to go back to his cell.

A violent struggle followed with Sgt Davey being punched and dragged and at one point pushed up against a sanitary unit and against the valve on a radiator, he said.

As he tried to get Mr McBrearty into his cell, the prisoner pulled him to the floor and bit him a number of times on the arm and torso, he said.

Sgt Davey later attended Letterkenny Hospital emergency department and his own doctor. He was out of work for around two months afterwards.   He developed further pain in his shoulders and was out of work for more than four months in 2012. 

He had to give up hobbies like golfing and shooting because they were too painful and only returned recently to golf, he said.

The simplest of tasks, like lifting his young daughter's schoolbag, caused him pain.  He mainly performed managerial and supervisory duties now in his job.

He also suffered psychologically because of what the court heard was the history surrounding the gardai and the McBrearty family. Publican Frank McBrearty, Snr was awarded substantial compensation in relation to their treatment by gardai during an investigation into the death of Richie Barron in Raphoe in 1996 and which led to the setting up of the Morris Tribunal.

Sgt Davey said some of the comments made during the incident were "quite pointed" and Mr McBrearty spoke of his "ability to bring issues to the fore". 

Due to the history surrounding the family, Sgt Davey was concerned his superiors did not believe him.  The incident was recorded on station CCTV, which was a comfort, but his concern was that, even though he felt he had been proportionate in what he had done that day, it could be interpreted differently.

He had previously been subjected to another assault in 2006 when a prisoner spat in his face and mouth and said he had HIV. Tests later showed this was no the case.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton said this was the sergeant "got quite a beating" and had suffered significant soft tissue injuries. He assessed compensation mainly on the basis of past suffering. 

He awarded a total of €55,555, including €5,555 for loss of earnings. He reduced the loss of earnings claim, related to an application for €2,500 for loss of opportunity to work during the Queen of England's visit to Ireland shortly after the incident, to €1,000.

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