Man warned he was ‘facing prison’ over what a Judge described as the ‘appalling’, unfounded allegation the man made against garda in video he posted online
A 22-year-old man received a two-month prison sentence suspended for a year at Listowel District Court on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to a charge relating to a video he streamed live on Facebook of a garda search of his car for drugs in which he can be heard twice calling the officer conducting the search a ‘kiddy fiddler’.
Judge David Waters described the unfounded slur against the garda as an ‘appalling thing to do’; and as an aggravating factor in the case, saying ‘to make that kind of allegation and then post it to social media brings this into a custodial area.’
The Court heard that Christopher O’Gorman, 59 Feale Drive, Listowel, had been stopped by gardaí in his home estate on June 8 of last year and that gardaí effected a search of his car.
The defendant took out his phone and filmed the garda search, sharing it live online as it unfolded in real time – in the course of which he made the remarks against the officer conducting the search, Gda Tom O’Sullivan.
Sergeant Kieran O’Connell told the Court that the video was subsequently seen by thousands of people, prompting hundreds of comments.
Defence solicitor Pat Mann told Judge Waters that his client had streamed the video after a ‘rush of blood to the head’ and in ‘absolute stupidity’ – out of his frustration on having to undergo what Mr Mann said was the latest in a number of searches of his person/property.
He said there was a wrongful perception out there that his client was involved in drugs; but that no prior search had produced any illegal substances.
Sergeant O’Connell said: “From the time the vehicle was stopped Mr O’Gorman took out his phone and started streaming live while the whole thing was [being conducted] by Gda O’Sulivan, who he called a ‘kiddy fiddler’ twice in the video.”
Sgt O’Connell said the video prompted hundreds of comments from members of the public, having been ‘published to thousands of people’.
“There are other charges that could be brought against this man,” Judge Waters remarked.
Mr O’Gorman was utlimately charged with a single count of acting in a threatening and abusive manner , to which he pleaded guilty, contrary to section six of the Criminal Justice Public Order Act as a result of his actions on the day.
Sgt O’Connell said the completely unfounded slur had affected Gda O’Sullivan. The drugs squad officer had the slur subsequently mentioned to him while searching other premises in the course of his duties.
“It’s an appalling thing to do that [to someone]...I consider this a very serious matter. This man is facing prison for this,” Judge Waters remarked.
Solicitor Pat Mann explained to the court that his client – who had an untarnished record bar a single conviction for being drunk in public – was remorseful for his speech and actions in the course of the incident.
“What happened here is that there had been a lot of interaction between the gardaí and Mr O’Gorman, going back over a period of time, was subject to a lot of searches, none of which proved fruitful,” Mr Mann said.
“There was a perception he was involved in drugs which he had nothing to do with.”
“Out of sheer frustration he made this ill-advised move....he had deleted it so far as he can do it from the system,” he said, adding that his client had uploaded it out of ‘absolute stupidity’ as a result of his emotions on the search.
The Court heard Facebook was the social media platform on which he streamed the video.
Mr Mann described the offence as a ‘once-off’ on the part of the young father.
“It’s not a once off for Gda O’Sullivan,” Judge Waters remarked.
“If you commit a crime and there are aggravating factors he has to bear the consequences.”
Mr Mann said his client ‘almost has no previous convictions’, that he expressed remorse and suggested the court might take a certain view should his client agree to contribute a sum to a garda charity.
“It was a rush of blood to the head due to the interaction he had with that Garda..you would always say if no one had a previous conviction here you would try to remain consistent,” Mr Mann said to the Judge.
Judge Waters said in his time on the bench he had perhaps twice ever proposed jail on a first offence; remarking that the section six charge provides for a custodial sentence for someone at the higher end of it.
“And this is at the higher end of it,” the Judge said.
Mr Mann asked the judge if he would leave a sentence ‘at the level’ of suspension.
Judge Waters heard the defendant had not come to garda attention since the incident.
“Mr Mann has a point. The sense of revulsion at his actions itself has to be tempered with the application of what would be the normal sentencing standards,” Judge Waters remarked.
He acknowledged that Mr O’Gorman had but one previous conviction; sentencing him to two months’ imprisonment which he suspended for one year. “If he comes back in again for something serious he will be seeing the inside of a prison cell,” the Judge warned.