Sunday 26 February 2017

Two gardai are jailed for role in 'ferocious' arrest assault

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Garda John Burke: Two-year sentence with 12 months suspended
Garda John Burke: Two-year sentence with 12 months suspended
Garda Daniel Hickey: Three-year sentence with 18 months suspended
Sgt Martha McEnery: Four-month suspended sentence
Victim Anthony Holness at court yesterday

A JUDGE has jailed two former gardai and handed a suspended sentence to a serving officer, condemning their actions as "obscene acts of criminality".

Judge Leonie Reynolds said the careers of Daniel Hickey (29), John Burke (37) and Sgt Martha McEnery (42) were "in tatters" at yesterday's sentencing hearing at Waterford Circuit Court.

She said they were "fortunate" that the injuries of the victim, Anthony Holness (38), were not "more serious".

Mr Holness suffers from headaches and psychological problems since his assault by gardai during his arrest in Waterford city on January 29, 2010. He appeared in the courtroom for part of the sentencing hearing yesterday.

It is the first case to be brought by the Garda Ombudsman's Office before a jury. A spokesman for the office said the trial sent out a message that juries and courts would not "tolerate misbehaviour of a criminal nature by gardai".

Yesterday, Judge Reynolds handed Hickey a three-year jail sentence with 18 months suspended for assault causing harm. Burke received a two-year sentence with 12 months suspended for intending to pervert the course of justice by diverting a CCTV camera from the assault, and McEnery received a four-month suspended sentence for assault. The families of the former gardai were in tears as the sentences were read out.

In August, the three were convicted for their role in assaulting Mr Holness; a fourth officer, Sgt Alan Kissane, was acquitted.

The incident happened at around 3am on January 29, 2010, when Mr Holness was on his way home from a night out. He was seen urinating on New Street by Hickey -- who was on patrol with a probationary garda. Mr Holness resisted arrest and was pepper-sprayed and grabbed in a headlock by Hickey.

The trial heard he was bundled to the ground and punched several times in the back of the head. McEnery arrived on the scene with Sgt Kissane after responding to a radio call for help.

While Mr Holness lay face down on the ground, McEnery was alleged to have struck him on the head a number of times with a closed fist.

Burke was operating the city's CCTV system in the communications room at Waterford garda station at the time and was accused of twice directing a camera, focused on the scene, away from the incident for a number of seconds.

In sentencing, Judge Reynolds said gardai had to use "reasonable force" at times. "It is not a tea party out there," she added.

However, the judge said the "sheer ferocity" of the assault on Mr Holness as shown on CCTV during the trial had brought an "audible collective intake of breath on the part of the jury".

Intoxicated

She said Mr Holness's behaviour had been "less than exemplary" on the night of his arrest.

"He was intoxicated, had urinated in a public place and was resisting arrest."

However, she said the reaction of Hickey and McEnery was "unjustifiable and disproportionate". She said a kick that Hickey gave the victim was "blatant criminality" and "an act of thuggery".

She also said Burke's actions in moving the CCTV camera brought a "disturbing and sinister dimension of this case". She said this was an "ill-fated decision" that has had "life-changing consequences".

During yesterday's hearing, the court heard that McEnery has been suspended from the force on 75pc pay for the past 22 months; Hickey and Burke are no longer serving gardai.

Hickey's mother, Louise Hickey, told the court her son -- who had attended St Finbarr's boarding school in west Cork -- had made his family proud when he joined the gardai.

McEnery has served in the gardai for the past 13 years and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in November 2008.

The court heard that McEnery conceded that she "failed to take control of the situation" on the night.

Burke, is married with one child, and had 16 years' service as a garda but is now employed by an engineering firm.

Hickey, Burke and McEnery were refused leave to appeal.

Irish Independent

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