Thursday 19 April 2018

Assault garda resigns from force as he escapes six months in jailDean Foley with his partner outside court. Cork Courts Limited

Ralph Riegel

A GARDA who escaped a prison sentence yesterday after a judge revised a decision to jail him has resigned from the force.

Dean Foley (25) had been facing dismissal as a result of his conviction for assault.

But he escaped a prison sentence yesterday when a judge revised a decision -- made on Thursday -- to put him behind bars for six months.

Foley broke down and sobbed when Judge Sean O Donnabhain changed his mind and ordered that the full 18-month term -- rather than just 12 months -- be suspended.

This followed a submission by Foley's defence counsel about the impact of a jail sentence on a member of the garda force.

It also emerged yesterday that Foley had raised almost €28,000 in compensation for his victim, who was left with bleeding on the brain.

The Cork Circuit Criminal Court judge was able to change the sentence as the current sitting was still in session and the sentence had not been formally confirmed.

Foley was initially sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to a brutal off-duty assault two years ago in which Stephen Gerard Murphy also suffered multiple fractures.

Mr Murphy, a native of Grenagh, said he did not want to see the garda go to prison -- and harboured no animosity over what had happened.

"I bear no ill will. I was only trying to go home that night. I wasn't looking for any trouble. I still cannot remember much. All I know is that I ended up in Cork University Hospital," he added.

Mr Murphy did not want to prepare a victim impact statement, and simply wanted to leave matters in the judge's hands.

"But I don't particularly want to see a prison sentence," he advised in a letter to court.

Last night, his uncle John told the Irish Independent the family were gratified that the court had acknowledged that Stephen was wronged, and the judge had described his nephew as "a noble, decent gentleman".

Foley apologised to Mr Murphy -- and raised almost €28,000 in compensation after selling his car, his bike and borrowing money from friends.

Mr Murphy had been out socialising in Cork city centre on September 12, 2009, to mark his impending move to Australia.

The assault occurred after Mr Murphy joked that one of the garda's friends was wearing a shirt that was "a bit gay".

An independent witness, Charles Wilkinson, said the assault Mr Murphy sustained was so violent he was afraid to get out of his taxi.

On Thursday, the judge said the attack represented "an unmerciful beating".

Yesterday, the judge agreed to suspend the entire sentence after the garda's defence counsel pointed out that he had failed to make a significant submission as intended.


The barrister acknowledged the submission was "somewhat unusual" while fully lawful.

Mr O'Sullivan said he had failed to argue the principle that a prison sentence had a greater impact on certain people in society such as foreign nationals, the elderly, the sick as well as members of An Garda Siochana and the Prison Service.

"It is a far more difficult sentence for him (a garda) than for anyone else," he argued.

Mr O'Sullivan said this was a significant principle in sentencing, and pointed out that, in the Midlands Prison, the garda would be kept in a special wing, segregated from the rest of the prison population and would have to spend most of his time in his cell.

He would also be subject to virtually round-the-clock observation.

The judge said, had that submission been made to him, he most likely would not have imposed sentence.

"Considering all the matters now raised and particularly in view of the fact that it appears to be agreed by both parties that were I not to listen to Mr O'Sullivan now he might not be able to advance that argument on appeal -- it could be an unfairness," he said.

"We are in a completely different place today. If a point had to be made then perhaps it has been made," he added.

Foley of Tradean, Knocknasuff, Blarney, Co Cork, wept as he walked free -- and was immediately embraced by his family and girlfriend as he left Cork Courthouse on Washington Street.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News