Garda who hit suspect with baton walks free
A garda was yesterday found not guilty of assaulting a suspect despite a judge comparing the incident to the infamous Rodney King beating in Los Angeles.
Garda Gerard Curtis was found not guilty by direction of Judge Donagh McDonagh after he ruled that the prosecution had failed to disprove the garda was acting in self-defence when he hit the suspect with his baton following a high-speed car chase.
Gda Curtis (23), of Ardee, Co Louth, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault and assault causing harm of John Paul Maughan (19) on Alexandria Road in the Dublin Docks on July 11, 2009.
During the five-day trial, the jury heard from several garda witnesses that Gda Curtis had used justified force.
However, referring to the CCTV recording of the incident, Judge McDonagh commented: "On first viewing, one is reminded of the Rodney King beating. Self-control was sadly lacking," he told the court in the absence of the jury.
"This, to me, is a case of a single garda over-reacting."
He also questioned why gardai decided to smash the car's windows instead of waiting for Mr Maughan and his accomplice to get out when Mr Maughan was clearly not going to escape after the stolen vehicle crashed.
Referring to the other gardai who gave evidence, Judge McDonagh said: "I do not believe his colleagues bathed themselves in glory either. Too much of the evidence in this trial was clearly partisan."
On Tuesday the jury was shown footage of the moment when the car crashed and Mr Maughan was dragged out. Around 15 gardai quickly arrived on the scene and a garda can be seen striking the suspect with his baton.
Several gardai gave evidence that Mr Maughan was kicking out violently during the arrest and getting ready to spit at them.
Garda Niamh Galligan, who is stationed at Store Street with Gda Curtis, told defence counsel Breffni Gordon: "He used the correct amount of force as Mr Maughan was kicking out and being violent."
Mr Maughan told Maurice Coffey, prosecuting, that gardai surrounded the car before the passenger window was smashed with a baton and he was pulled through. He said he told the gardai to relax and then put his arms out so he could be handcuffed.
Judge McDonagh thanked the jury before dismissing them and telling Gda Curtis he was free to go.