Friday 14 December 2018

Retired garda rugby coach awarded €9,000 by court for injuries sustained in arrest

A Garda in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)
A Garda in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Ray Managh

A retired garda, former rugby player and current junior rugby coach has been awarded just €9,000 compensation by a High Court judge for injuries to his lower back and right leg, suffered in assisting the arrest of a violent drunk in Co Cavan five years ago.

Mr Justice Micheal Twomey, who has slashed awards since taking over the garda compensation list at the start of the year, has also criticised the size of legal costs attached to garda injury hearings in the High Court that, he says, could be dealt with in the District and Circuit Courts.

Barrister Esther Earley told the judge that Garda Gary Tobin had suffered the ire of serious criminals over his 30-year service in the force, including an attack in 1996 by two members of the Sean Gilligan gang, including Brian Meehan, the only man convicted of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.

Ms Earley said Garda Tobin had been off duty when attacked by Meehan and another Gilligan gang member and suffered an injury to a tooth.

Tobin, of Killinkere, Virginia, Co Cavan, told the High Court Monday that he had been on duty in Bailyborough at 3am on 31st January 2013 when he and a colleague arrested a violent drunk and possible drugs user on the town’s Main Street.

During the arrest he had been knocked to the ground, injuring his lower back and right leg. He told Ms Earley he had been four months off work with severe back pain before returning to light station duties for a number of months. His right leg had continued paining him and he still suffered symptoms and still had difficulty putting his socks on each morning.

Mr Tobin told barrister Kevin Dinneen, counsel for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, that his back had fully recovered after four months but he still suffered from intermittent pain in his leg. He said that although his doctor had advised he get physiotherapy he had not done so.

He said that as a rugby coach he was aware of how to deal with injuries and had undertaken a self-treatment regime for himself through exercise after initially having been prescribed anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants.

Tobin agreed with Mr Dinneen that he had been advised by his doctor to have physiotherapy and to lose weight.

“But I have always been this size during my playing years and in training junior players and I can keep up with the best of them,” he said.

Judge Twomey, awarding Mr Tobin €9,000 and costs for what he described as soft tissue injuries, said he had undergone an MRI scan at the time which had shown degenerative symptoms in his back.

In a judgment last week on costs related to minor injuries suffered by gardaí in malicious assaults in the line of duty, Judge Twomey dropped broad hints to the Government with regard to legislating for new rules governing garda injury claims. He said millions of euro of taxpayers money could be saved in legal costs if lesser injuries were dealt with by the Injuries Board.

In his judgment he said his court had been struck by the bravery of the gardaí who on a daily basis risked their lives so that members of the public could live in peace. Whether an injury was incurred as a result of intense bravery, or misfortune arising from a malicious incident, was irrelevant to assessment of the level of compensation for pain and suffering for the injured garda, he said.

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