Wednesday 16 October 2019

Gardaí told to 'F-off' by drunk men sailing erratically in Dublin Port shipping lane - trial

Ronan Stephens and Brian Stacey. Pic: Collins Courts
Ronan Stephens and Brian Stacey. Pic: Collins Courts

Tom Tuite

TWO men sailing erratically in the shipping lane of Dublin Port were drunk and told gardai to F-off when they went out in a lifeboat and asked them to desist, a trial has heard.

Dublin Fire Brigade and RNLI lifeboats were called out deal with the incident on the Liffey at Dublin Port that commenced at about 6am on June 1, 2017.

The sailors of a small 26-foot pleasure craft refused to get out of the shipping lane and delayed the approach of the 90-metre Corinthian, a 4,000 tonne cruise liner, Dublin District Court has heard.

One of the men allegedly told a lifeboat skipper it was "their God given right to go up and down this river as Dubliners".

It started after his small boat left its mooring at a south Dublin bank sailing club. After a couple of hours the sailing boat which had an outboard engine was brought to a halt at Sir John Rogerson Quay while its owner was taken to Poolbeg marina at about 8.20am.

Boat owner and yacht club member Brian Stacey, 46, of Derry Drive, Crumlin and co-defendant Ronan Stephens, 42, from Captain’s Road also in Crumlin, face charges under the Maritime Safety Act and the Public Order Act in connection with the alleged incident.

Brian Stacey (44) of Derry Drive, Crumlin, Dublin Pic Collins Courts.
Brian Stacey (44) of Derry Drive, Crumlin, Dublin Pic Collins Courts.

Following submissions from defence barristers Joe Mulrean and John Griffin, Judge John Hughes dismissed two charges against the men: for failing to comply with a Garda and endangerment of an RNLI lifeboat crew.

The trial continues on July 24 next.

They remain accused of being intoxicated, navigating the craft without due care at the Shipping Lane on the River Liffey and breach of the peace, which they deny.

Garda Vicky Montgomery was one of three gardai brought out on the water by the RNLI to help deal with the situation. She told Judge John Hughes the two defendants were asked to desist and leave the shipping channel.

They had cans of alcohol and she believed they were intoxicated. She said it appeared they had consumed a lot of alcohol.

Questioned by the defence, she did not know what brand the drinks were but believed it was alcohol. She said the pleasure craft attempted to crash into the RNLI boat but she was aware of evidence of a RNLI witness that there was no collision.

Ronan Stephens. Photo: Collins
Ronan Stephens. Photo: Collins

Mr Mulrean put it to her that Garda Patrick Collins said the boat and the RNLI craft described it as a "bump". She gave evidence of being told to F-off when asking the two men in the boat to desist.

Counsel put it to her that the two men on the boat had been heading to Dun Laoghaire that morning and were forced back by a Dublin harbour pilot.

She said she was not aware of that.

Mr Mulrean said a ship carrying the pilot and the RNLI lifeboat hemmed in the sailing boat. His client, Mr Stephens, was told by his friend that he wanted to sail his craft under the East Link bridge because he did not want it to be damaged. Garda Montgomery said she did not remember hearing it but that was where the boat went.

Garda Patrick Collins told the court the sailing boat was circling between three ships, a RNLI boat, a Dublin Port tugboat and and Dublin Fire Brigade craft.

They were weaving erratically and he thought they were a danger to himself and his emergency service colleagues.

They were aggressive and shouting F-off, he said. He also directed them to cease their activities and they failed to do so, he said.

The court heard Mr Stacey boarded the Dublin Port tug.

He said Mr Stacey was "highly intoxicated" and the tug boat was moving from side to side. He alleged Mr Stacey was aggressive to the pilot.

Mr Stacey’s barrister put it to the Garda that his client did not accept he was aggressive and was just saying to the Dublin pilot to "back off".

Garda Collins said it was his aggressive manner which caused him and colleagues to move from the RNLI boat and to board the Dublin Port vessel. He did not accept Mr Stacey denials he was drunk.

Final State witness, Garda Paul Moody told the court he also went out on the water on the RNLI boat. He made a request to the pleasure craft to desist. It was sailing erratically with two males on board.

An attempt was made to corner it and a small collision occurred. He asked them to stop and was met with a "barrage of language" and told "f*** you, who do you think you are, this is our right".

He also said the defendants had been drinking on the sailing boat and were intoxicated.

Mr Stacey boarded the Dublin Port vessel and Garda Moody jumped onto it as well and asked him to calm down. He could see a verbal altercation between Mr Stacey and member of the Dublin Port Authority.

He said there was a strong smell of alcohol from him.

Garda Moody said he was not aware Mr Stacey’s boat had been pushed back up the Liffey earlier when he had attempted to sail to Dun Laoghaire.

He agreed with Mr Griffin the man had a right to be on the Liffey but he imagined that were if he was co-operating with rules of the sea.

Garda Moody agreed a boat theft charge was subsequently withdrawn after it was established Mr Stacey was the owner. He said he did not see Mr Stacey showing his ID card allowing him access to Poolbeg yacht club.

Mr Stacey was brought back to the marina and arrested.

His pleasure boat headed to John Rogerson Quay. CCTV evidence showed the remaining man on board being helped onto the quays where he removed his clothing.

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