Young garda admits trespassing at house after dispute over phone
A YOUNG garda has admitted trespassing at a house where a women's international soccer player was staying, after the two had a dispute over a phone he had loaned her.
Brian MacLaughlin (26) got into the row with footballer Niamh Reid Burke at the front door of the south Dublin house after they shared a taxi home from the city centre in the early hours of the morning.
Garda MacLaughlin, a highly-commended drugs squad officer, pleaded guilty to criminal trespass at the address where Ms Reid Burke - a Dublin torch-bearer in the 2012 Olympics - was staying with a friend.
Judge Conal Gibbons struck the case out at Dublin District Court after the garda made a €1,000 charity donation. He said that while the accused's conduct was "not exactly gentlemanly", gardai were human and made mistakes.
He also stressed that Ms Reid Burke had been entitled to make the complaint and that "nobody was above the law".
Garda McLaughlin, who is based at Terenure Station, admitted trespassing in a manner likely to cause fear at Crannagh Road, Rathfarnham on August 19, 2012.
He had initially denied the charge but changed his plea to guilty after a further count of of assaulting Ms Reid Burke was withdrawn by the prosecution.
The case was brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions on behalf of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman's Commission.
GSOC investigating officer, James Pius Butler said Ms Reid Burke, a student, had been staying with a friend, Caroline Flynn at Crannagh Road. She had attended a 21st birthday party at Westmanstown Sports Complex, Clonsilla and went on to Dandelion nightclub on St Stephen's Green with friends.
Afterwards, she met the accused when they were both looking for a taxi.
They shared a cab to Rathfarnham and both got out as they were unsure if she was at the correct destination, Mr Butler said.
Ms Reid Burke had mislaid her own phone and used Garda MacLaughlin's to ring her friend.
"There appeared to have been some dispute between the two parties outside the house", Mr Butler said. The accused went to the front door as "he was under the impression that Ms Reid Burke was in possession of his phone and he was looking to get (it) back".
Ms Flynn and the occupant, Anthony Flynn came to the door and Ms Reid Butler ran into the house.
There was "some interaction" between people at the door, the defendant produced his identity card and "when he saw he was getting nowhere", he left without having entered. He found his phone in the garden.
The accused was "completely co-operative" with the investigation and upfront about what happened.
Det Insp George McGrearysaid Garda MacLaughlin had numerous commendations, was a keen sportsman and had raised money for charity. He was highly regarded by his colleagues.
Defence Solicitor Dara Robinson said the accused had been in the gardai for seven years.
If he was given a conviction, Mr Robinson believed "that would play adversely against him".
Garda MacLaughlin was an active member of his local GAA club, where he coached underage teams.
"The business that gets him here today is an unfortunate episode that began with a misunderstanding and ended with him leaving the front door of the premises being told in no uncertain terms, 'you are not welcome here, leave, get lost'", Mr Robinson said.
Judge Gibbons said the public expected a high standard of behaviour from the gardai, but people made mistakes and "that includes members of An Garda Siochana".
"(They) are human beings with all the imperfections that that entails. I put it down to an unfortunate event that shouldn't have happened; he misbehaved, he was not properly respectful of Ms Reid Burke and indeed her friends".
He added: "Nobody is above the law - the gardai, judges or anybody else".
The case was struck out after the €1,000 donation was made to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.