Friday 15 December 2017

Member of Defence Forces found not guilty of assaulting fellow soldier in Lebanon

Irish Defence Forces Photo: Frank McGrath
Irish Defence Forces Photo: Frank McGrath

Liz Farsaci

A soldier has been found not guilty of assaulting a fellow member of the Defence Forces while on tour in Lebanon.

Sgt Martin Dougan was accused of assaulting Corporal Niall McShane on 9 March 2014, while both men were serving with the Irish Defence Forces in Lebanon.

The court martial trial heard that Cpl McShane and four other colleagues were on an overnight recreational visit in south Lebanon when they met Sgt Dougan and others at a pub on the night of 8 March 2014.

The alleged incident then happened in the pub in the early hours of the following morning, and Cpl McShane was found outside the pub several hours later by a civilian.

After deliberating for 90 minutes, the board of officers, similar to a jury, came back with a verdict of not guilty on both charges faced by Sgt Dougan. Both charges arose from the alleged assault, one under civil law and one under the Defence Forces Act.

Sgt Dougan previously faced a charge that he was under the influence of an intoxicant on the day of the alleged assault but the charge was dismissed, due to lack of evidence.

Sgt Dougan had denied all the charges during the court martial sitting, at the Military Justice Centre in McKee Barracks, Dublin.

At the beginning of the hearing Cpl McShane told the military court that on 8 March 2014, while serving in Lebanon, he and four colleagues were given overnight leave to visit the city of Naqoura in south Lebanon.

He said they went shopping, had something to eat, watched part of a rugby match, and then went to a pub, the Irish House, for members of the Defence Forces.

Cpl McShane said that while there, there appeared to be some “animosity” between another serving member of the Forces, whom he had known for a long time, and Sgt Dougan, who was also in the Irish House.

Cpl McShane said that later in the evening, Sgt Dougan challenged him to an arm wrestling contest outside the pub, which Cpl McShane won. Sgt Dougan then went inside.

Cpl McShane said as he walked back into the pub, he saw Sgt Dougan in front of him.

“I was struck in the left eye – and that’s the last memory I have of that night,” Cpl McShane said. “The next memory I have is in the ambulance.”

Cpl Dougan said he suffered a deep laceration on the back of his head, cuts on various parts of his body, a swollen black eye, bruises on his face and a busted upper and lower lip.

Commandant Gerard Rigney, a witness for the defence, said that on 24 September 2015, he conducted an investigation into the alleged assault.

He said Cpl McShane told him he did not see who hit him but that the memory came back to him after attending sessions with a Defence Forces psychologist.

“Cpl McShane stated that he did not see who struck him,” said Comdt Rigney. “He said words to the effect that memories came to him after the event.”

Cpl McShane said he was “100 per cent” certain Sgt Dougan was the one who struck him, Comdt Rigney said.

Two other colleagues, who accompanied Cpl McShane to the pub, also gave evidence, although they both left before the alleged incident.

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