Wednesday 22 May 2019

Man who bit garda's finger so hard he broke it 'lost the run of himself'


A man in an 'almost a psychotic frenzy' bit down so hard on a garda's finger that he broke the bone.

Brandon Power (21), 9 St Joseph's Road, Newtownmountkennedy, appeared in Wicklow Circuit Court last Thursday.

Sgt Fiona O'Neill of Bray Garda Station outlined what happened on the day of the assault, which occurred in the courthouse in Bray on March 31, 2018.

Power had been arrested on a bench warrant and arrived at the court building at around 9.30 a.m.

While waiting for court to commence, Power started shouting abuse at Garda John Whelan and attempted to flee the court. Garda Thomas Devereux and another garda chased and caught him.

Power was struggling, shouting, kicking, swinging his arms and legs, and striking both gardaí. Gardaí and others attempted to help restrain him.

Power was generally abusive, the court heard, and placed in a cell.

He was remanded in custody that day by Judge Kennedy, who imposed a sentence for the matter before the court.

Power was further aggrieved, and 'wouldn't listen to reason', according to prosecutor James Kelly, who was questioning Sgt O'Neill.

Garda Devereux was trying to restrain Power, when the accused bit down on the garda's left small finger and wouldn't let go.

Garda Devereux tried to free his finger but Power locked his jaw and wouldn't release it.

Garda Devereux was dragged to the ground and other gardaí attempted to help. Garda Devereux heard his own finger crack from the bite and thought maybe it was bitten off.

When he eventually released his grip, Power was taken away to the cells. Garda Devereux was taken to hospital for treatment, which included bandaging and antibiotics. The finger was fractured. He was prescribed anti-HIV and hepatitis medication as a precaution.

'Garda Devereux said he never experienced pain like that,' said Mr Kelly.

In a victim impact statement, the garda said that the medication had not agreed with him and had caused nausea and excessive tiredness. There are some lasting effects related to the injury, including numbness, weakness, and pins and needles, which indicate nerve damage.

The cost to clean blood from the courtroom was €567.50.

Barrister Justin McQuade said that it was undoubtedly an horrendous occurrence.

'This young man was described as being in almost a psychotic frenzy,' he said, and outlined some mental health diagnoses since childhood, including oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).

Mr McQuade produced letters from a youth worker, from Bray Community Addiction, and a letter of apology from Power to the garda. He said that he is on a CE scheme currently.

Power witnessed the sudden death of a close friend from overdose in November 2017 and this had an effect on him, said Mr McQuade. He left school without a junior certificate but has worked as a chimney sweep, handyman and in a petrol station.

Power began to use cannabis at a young age, said Mr McQuade, and has also used D10, and smoked heroin.

He began a sentence on the day of the assault, which Mr McQuade and Power's mother said changed him.

'He came out of prison a lot different,' said Power's mother.

She said that he has engaged with services and she has seen a vast improvement.

'I would be his biggest critic but I can see a level of maturity, and taking responsibility and ownership for himself,' she said.

Mr McQuade said that prison had been a 'short, sharp shock' for Power, and it had a rehabilitative effect. He asked the judge to consider not imposing an immediate custodial sentence.

Judge Terrence O'Sullivan said that this was a serious offence involving a prolonged assault on a garda doing his job.

'Gardai are obliged by their job to keep the peace, keep order, and put themselves at risk. Garda Devereux was carrying out his duties and was assaulted without justification,' said Judge O'Sullivan.

He said that, ordinarily, if the case was just judged on the actual assault, it would merit a custodial sentence, aggravated by the fact that it was an assault on a front-line public service member. He said that the headline sentence would be two years, in the mid-range of section three assaults.

Judge O'Sullivan said he would take into consideration the personal circumstances and state of mind of the accused, including a diagnosis of ODD.

'His mother said he had been in a difficult place but she has seen a massive change,' said Judge O'Sullivan. 'He has abstained from drugs, changed his attitude, is more mature and taking responsibility. I accept her evidence,' he said.

He said that Power had presented to him as clean cut, and doing his best to present well to a person in authority.

Judge O'Sullivan referred to the ODD diagnosis, and said that would generally include not reacting well to people telling him what to do.

'He showed defiance to Judge Kennedy and completely lost the run of himself,' said Judge O'Sullivan.

He said that now it would appear that Power is doing his best, with the hand he has been dealt by life.

'He has good references. BCAT indicates that he is very motivated to change and focussed on relapse prevention.

Judge O'Sullivan said that the best approach would be to keep him on that path.

He handed down a one-year sentence, suspended entirely, on the conditions that Power keep the peace, not use illicit substances, and continue to engage with BCAT.

Judge O'Sullivan thanked members of the gardaí for putting their physical safety on the line.

Bray People