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Garda cleared of assaulting two joyriders

A garda has been acquitted of assaulting two joyriders who had claimed they were severely beaten by several officers during their arrest after a high-speed chase and crash.

Thomas Hughes (29) had the case against him dismissed after a judge said she was not satisfied that he had been properly identified as having committed the alleged assaults.

Garda Hughes, who had an "unblemished record", was described by colleagues who were witnesses for the prosecution as "a diligent garda" and a "gentleman".

The assault complaints were brought by two men who admitted they were thieves and were "out of their minds" on either drugs or alcohol on the night of the incident.

Gary Henry (19) and John Paul Maughan had claimed unidentified gardai "battered" them at the scene of the crash at Alexandra Road in the Dublin docklands on July 11 last year.

Garda Hughes, of Store Street Station, was subsequently prosecuted but no specific allegation against him was made during the course of the two-day trial at Dublin District Court.

The court heard Mr Henry drove a Volkswagen Polo he had stolen earlier at high speeds on the wrong side of the road and into the Dublin Port exit gate, narrowly avoiding a collision with an oil container lorry.

Defence barrister Breffni Gordon described the car as "a bomb en route" it was driven so dangerously.

Garda Hughes was one of at least 10 pursuing officers who arrived at the scene after the car crashed into a fence.

Four gardai gave evidence for the prosecution -- Gardai Colin Hampson, Cliff Harding, Paudie Kelly and Niamh Galligan. At least one positively identified Garda Hughes on CCTV footage but none gave evidence of any ill-treatment of the alleged victims.

Garda Colin Hampson told the court he put Mr Henry over the bonnet of a car to restrain him at the scene but he was not sure who handcuffed him. He said Mr Henry was violent, spitting and making threats.

In cross-examination, Garda Hampson said of Garda Hughes: "He is a very, very good garda... I can only describe him as a gentleman."

Garda Kelly said when he got to the scene, Mr Maughan was "lying on the ground on his back, with his legs in the air, laughing and shouting obscenities". He said he was one of the gardai who restrained Mr Maughan on the ground.

At the close of the prosecution's evidence, Judge Aingeal Ni Chonduin said she did not find the State had proved its case.