Wednesday 11 December 2019

Judge says rural gardai are 'last bastion' of civil society

Garda morale has been badly hit by the series of controversies that have rocked the force.
Garda morale has been badly hit by the series of controversies that have rocked the force.

Finian Coghlan

A JUDGE made an impassioned plea for the retention of rural garda stations after a garda foiled a burglary at a 93-year-old woman's home by noticing a strangely parked car.

"Garda Connolly is the last bastion between civil society and career criminals like Mr Toohey," said Judge Seamus Hughes at the District Court in Athlone yesterday.

He was speaking in the trial of Joseph Toohey (37), who has an address in McCormack Drive, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and was the getaway driver on the night of January 16.

"The quite amazing thing about Garda Connolly is he takes an intimate interest in his area. He lives there, he goes to Mass there, he sees this car parked and thinks it's out of place.

"He carries out an investigation, which leads to this (conviction). I can't think of a better example of why a rural station should be kept open," said the judge.

He was referring to Garda Steven Connolly, the local garda in Glasson village, a few miles outside Athlone on the main N55 road to Longford.


Earlier, the court heard how, on the night in question, Garda Connolly had spotted a blue Mazda parked outside the house of the elderly lady and thought something might be awry.

When he approached it with his torch and noticed two men in the car, it sped towards him – forcing him to jump out of the way. He called for assistance from Athlone as the car had driven that way.

Detective Garda Niall Cogavin then told the court how he and Garda Frank Finn had to take evasive action to avoid the car speeding on the wrong side of the road.

"The community is extremely fortunate to have gardai like Garda Cogavin and Garda Finn. That's like something you'd see on the TV," said Judge Hughes.

Solicitor Robert Kelly told the court that the defendant Toohey was "remorseful" and "he wouldn't have got involved if he knew it was the house of a 93-year-old".

"So he would've been less remorseful if it was the home of a 40-year-old woman? It just shows you the stupidity of your instructions," said the judge.

"He threatened the life of three gardai. He deserves a sentence in its own right," said the judge, before adding nine months to the 14 months Toohey is presently serving.

After hearing Toohey had previously been banned from driving for 30 years, Judge Hughes extended this to life.

Irish Independent

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