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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Garda cleared of wrongdoing in arrest of a homeless man

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

A Garda who used pepper spray before pinning down a homeless man with his foot did not use excessive force during his arrest, an inquiry found.

The Garda watchdog investigation cleared the officer of any wrongdoing during the arrest of the 34-year-old man on Dublin’s Henry Street on March 13.

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) launched the special investigation in the public interest after footage of the incident posted on the internet went viral and 17 members of the public complained.

It found an account of the incident by the arresting officer was supported by CCTV footage, which showed the drunken homeless man tried to punch the garda and grab his pepper spray.

The garda involved in the incident denied he used excessive force or that he used the incapacitant spray on the man after he was restrained by handcuffs.

Investigators found there was no CCTV footage available that did not support his claim.

A garda is seen in the video with his foot apparently on the handcuffed man’s leg
A garda is seen in the video with his foot apparently on the handcuffed man’s leg

Read More: Gardaí to probe film of homeless man's arrest

Attempts to enhance the uploaded footage captured on a camera phone by a student proved “inconclusive as to whether incapacitant spray had indeed been used by the garda when the man was handcuffed on the ground”.

“Insufficient evidence of either a criminal or disciplinary nature was established in the investigation,” GSOC concluded.

“It appears that any force used by the garda concerned in this incident was justified, lawful and proportionate under the circumstances and no more than absolutely necessary.”

In a detailed four page report GSOC said the man had been drinking heavily before the garda found him slouched against the shutters of a shop on Henry Street, near the GPO building, at 3.20pm.

He was told to leave the area and gathered his belongings and was seen on CCTV staggering and loitering around the entrance to an empty shop on Henry Street, which was busy with passing shoppers and tourists, the report said.

The garda told GSOC he approached the man for a second time and was verbally abused.

At 3.30pm, the garda arrested the man for being drunk but when the garda reached for his handcuffs, the man drew his hand up across his chest.

“The garda, who said that he feared because of this movement that he was going to be assaulted, took his incapacitant spray from his holster and warned the man not to assault him,” he said.

“However, a moment later, the man grabbed the spray canister and pulled it towards himself on the ground.

“The incapacitant spray canister had been attached to the garda’s belt by a safety lanyard and, during this struggle, the lanyard was ripped away from the garda’s belt.

“The garda then deployed his incapacitant spray at the man, which he reported had minimal effect, and attempts were made to kick out and punch at the garda.

“He sprayed the man for a second time and called for assistance using his radio.”

The man, who was taken to Store Street Garda Station, was hospitalised the following day after suffering an epileptic type seizure.

An interpreter was used to interview the Polish man, who had no memory of the incident and made no complaint against the force, it added.

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