Garda found guilty of attacking "belligerent" drunk reveller in Christmas hat
A GARDA has been found guilty of attacking a drunk man in a Santa hat during an arrest in Dublin city-centre.
Garda Donal O'Neill, 31, who is based at Pearse Street station in Dublin, had denied assaulting Tim Dowling, 29, at Pearse Street in the early hours of December 16, 2012.
CCTV footage of the 12-second incident showing Mr Dowling, who was wearing a Santa hat, being shouldered and brought to the ground and kicked was viewed by Judge Ann Ryan at Dublin District Court.
She found Garda O'Neill guilty and adjourned sentencing until September when a probation report will be furnished to the court.
Gardai had already been aware of other incidents involving Mr Dowling and officers approached him as he was leaning against a car outside Pearse Street Garda station.
Father-of-two, Gda O'Neill, who had an unblemished career record, said in court he felt the man represented a threat to him and his colleagues. He claimed Dowling would not take his hands out of his pockets and he believed he used reasonable force to effectively arrest him for interfering with the car.
Prosecution counsel Sinead McMullan argued that excessive force was used on a clearly inebriated person who was staggering, wearing a Santa hat, and did not know where he was while trying to get home.
The assault charge is a summary offence which on conviction can result in a possible fine and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.
The court heard Mr Dowling had been intoxicated and had already come to notice of gardai from Pearse Street station. A hostel employee told Judge Ryan that the man tried to gain entry but he said that he was not aggressive and described him as confused.
Gardai were called but the man had left by the time they arrived. The court heard that later in the night Mr Dowling tried to get into a Garda van. Another garda encountered him later on and described him as “belligerent”.
A garda, who approached Mr Dowling just before his arrest, told the court he felt threatened by the complainant.
Prosecution counsel Ms McMullan said the man was gratuitously assaulted, the force used was not proportionate and was “unreasonable in the extreme”. She argued that the man had not been doing any damage to the car on which he was leaning.
Mr Dowling gave a statement to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) that he did not recall the incident but could identify himself on CCTV footage. He had no physical injuries but went to GSOC because he wanted the incident to be independently investigated.
In an interview with a GSOC investigator, Gda O'Neill repeatedly denied attacking the man. He said Mr Dowling was uncooperative and would not show his hands and he “deemed him a threat”.
In evidence today, he also told the court the man would not take his hands out of his pockets and he feared he had a weapon.
He told the court he swept Mr Dowling to the ground and kicked his arms to get him to take his hands out of his pocket.
He denied when it was put to him by Ms McMullan that he had knelt on the man's back or kicked his body with his garda issue steel-tipped shoes. He rejected suggestions that Mr Dowling's hands were out of his pockets before or when he went down to the ground.
He did not accept when it was put to him by the prosecution that Mr Dowling was “completely out of it” and probably thought he car he was leaning on was a taxi and that he was just trying to get home.
Mr Dowling did not suffer injuries but complained of soreness afterwards, the court heard.