A farmer who kicked a garda while in a delusional state received a suspended sentence at Arklow District Court on Wednesday.
Declan Finnerty (52) Ballynomona, Redcross, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm at Arklow Garda Station on October 25, 2020.
The court heard on the day in question at 5.35 p.m., the defendant had been detained by gardai under the Mental Health Act. He was sitting in the public office of Arklow Garda Station under the supervision of three gardai. A doctor had been called to examine him. Finnerty became aggressive, then approached Garda Comerford asking if he was “McAndrew’s son”. At 6.05 p.m., Finnerty took off his jumper and adopted a boxing stance. Garda Comerford explained to Finnerty that he was not “McAndrew’s son”.
The doctor arrived to examine Finnerty, who was moved to an observation room. Gardai were asked by the doctor to remain at the doorway. Finnerty then engaged Garda Comerford in conversation, asking if he was multilingual. He said only God and the Devil are multilingual and “you are not God”. Later, he calmly told Garda Comerford he was “dead”.
Around 7.30 p.m., he asked Garda Comerford for the time as his watch was not working. Garda Comerford turned his head, then Finnerty kicked and struck him in the leg. Finnerty was restrained by gardai and brought to St Vincent’s Hospital, where he was admitted the psychiatric unit for assessment. Garda Comerford was treated by ambulance personnel and later saw his own GP. He returned to active duty two days after the incident. Finnerty had a previous conviction for a road traffic offence, dating back to 2008.
The defendant’s barrister told the court that a letter of apology had been delivered to Arklow Garda Station following the incident, however, this may not have been received by Garda Comerford. Finnerty offered sincere apologies to Garda Comerford and other gardai present that night. He is a farmer and a construction worker with no serious previous convictions. Finnerty had left school early to take over the family farm. In 2012, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had spent time in hospital. He was under the care of local mental health services. At the time of the incident, Finnerty had not been himself and had been under the delusional belief that his home was being encroached upon. His sisters were present in court to support him. The family were concerned about Finnerty’s wellbeing and he was living with one sister. Finnerty had brought €1,000 as compensation to court.
Judge David Kennedy said a substantial jail sentence would ordinarily be imposed. However, he noted that Finnerty had no previous convictions, and had shown empathy to the victim. He had also been under serious mental health stress factors at the time of the incident.
Judge Kennedy imposed a three-month jail sentence suspended for 12 months and released the defendant on his own bond of €100. He also directed the defendant to pay €1,000 to Garda Comerford in compensation. Leave to appeal was set at €300, half cash.