Hero garda faces dismissal after admitting vicious assault
A HERO garda faces possible dismissal from the force after admitting a vicious assault on a criminal with previous convictions for taunting officers, a court has heard.
Garda Ian Oates, described as an exemplary officer, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm after a confrontation in Co Donegal two years ago.
The 30-year-old garda had been commended by the force for saving a woman from drowning in 2008 and helping to prevent the rape of a woman two years later, a court heard.
Judge Paul Kelly, sitting at Letterkenny District Court, watched CCTV footage of the attack in which an off-duty Garda Oates punched and kicked Richard Geraghty in the early hours of September 1, 2011.
The judge struck out the case against the garda, saying his loss to the force could be a "draconian" result of the case.
However, barrister Damian Crawford told Judge Kelly the incident was under investigation by garda bosses and Garda Oates could lose his job as a result of the incident.
Supt Jimmy Coen said Garda Oates had claimed in a statement that the argument with Geraghty began when the victim approached him outside Gallagher's Hotel in the town, calling him "a dirty scumbag pig".
Footage showed Geraghty approach Garda Oates and two other off-duty gardai outside the hotel just after 3am on the day of the incident.
Geraghty (27), from Ballymacool Woods in Letterkenny, told Supt Coen in an interview that there had been a previous incident when Garda Oates had been off-duty.
The garda, he said, had shook his hand when learning of the sudden death in 2010 of his brother Mark.
On the night of the assault, Garda Oates, he said, had offered his hand again. When this gesture was refused, Garda Oates had asked him to step into a laneway beside the hotel.
"He started laying into me," said Geraghty in a statement.
In his statement to investigating gardai, Garda Oates said Geraghty was extremely drunk, was aggressive and shouted so hard into his face that he was covered in spit. He claimed he had hit out only in self-defence.
Footage, however, showed Garda Oates throw at least four blows at Geraghty.
Defence barrister Damian Crawford told Judge Kelly that his client had accepted he had acted wrongly and Garda Oates was called to the witness box to offer an apology to Mr Geraghty.
Mr Crawford said Garda Oates was an exemplary officer who had served his community with distinction.
"In 2008 he risked his own life when he jumped into the River Swilly and saved the life of a woman who was drowning," said Mr Crawford.
"He was commended by An Garda Siochana for his bravery and he was commended again in 2012 for his diligence when his studying of CCTV systems led to the prevention of a rape."
The barrister asked Judge Kelly to apply leniency. He handed in newspaper clippings to the judge which showed that Geraghty had previous convictions for taunting and assaulting off-duty gardai.
Judge Kelly told the court that incidents like this "do damage to the force" but said "it would be a draconian result if he (Oates) were to lose his job as a garda". He then struck the matter out.
Gda Oates, who has helped raise more than €60,000 for church and cancer charities, was ordered to pay €1,000 to the Friends of Letterkenny Hospital.
He has agreed to pay Geraghty €5,000 in compensation.
By Greg Harkin