How candid cameras caught gardai in video nasties
The camera phone has become the protesters’ best friend - but if top ranked Gardai get their way it will soon be illegal to photographing or film members of the force and share the images online in a way that identifies officers.
The proposed ban comes as the explosion in social media means there are no hiding places at any public events from the glare of the camera phones’ eye.
It has beeb condemnded by journalists with NUJ spokesman Seams Dooley stating: “It is disturbing that any section would contemplate banning the taking of photographs or recording of public events or assemblies.”
However, AGSI president Antoinette Cunningham believes gardaí have to be accountable and are liable to be videoed, but when personal details are posted online it crosses a line.
“The issue we have is with the member’s family, or pictures of their children, or home address being printed or published on social media,” said Cunningham.
There have been cases in the past where the videoing or photographing of gardaí has led to investigations, but in others they have been used to mock, harass or intimidate officers.
When violence broke out at a ‘Reclaim the Streets’ march in Dublin in 2002, Garda Donal Corcoran was videoed using his baton on protesters while not displaying his garda ID number on his shirt.
He was dubbed ‘Robocop’ after pictures of the incident were published in the media, while the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described the events of the day as heavy-handed.
Garda Corcoran was charged with assaulting three protesters. During his trial he admitted using excessive force on a protester who he hit on the head with his baton. However, he said he meant to hit the man’s arm in order to protect a colleague. A jury cleared him of assault at the trial in 2004.
The Garda Ombudsman launched an investigation in March 2015 after another officer was videoed arresting a homeless man while holding pepper spray and standing on him as he waited for back-up to arrive on Dublin’s Henry Street.
The man who videoed the incident complained that the officer was heavy-handed and seemed to suggest he used his spray while the offender was handcuffed.
However, GSOC found the officer used justified and proportionate force in making the arrest. They said CCTV evidence backed up the officer’s version of events.
It transpired the arrested man was intoxicated, had been aggressive to the garda and had grabbed the officer’s pepper spray. The garda got the spray back and had to use it on the man who was trying to kick and punch him.
There was no evidence to suggest the garda used pepper spray after the man was handcuffed. The arrested man later said he was so drunk he had no recollection of the incident and made no complaint.
In March, a Garda Sergeant described to a court how he was viciously assaulted in Henry Street while onlookers stood back and filmed with their phones.
Two 16-year-old boys pleaded guilty to the attack, which occurred on June 18 last year.
One teenager pulled the sergeant’s bicycle helmet over his face and hit him in the head, before punching him on the ground in the face and head. When he managed to restrain the youth, the officer was kicked by the other teen.
After a man was shot at the Smithfield Horse Fair in 2011, gardaí were very visibly present at the 2012 Fair. One unlucky officer was trying to check the tag of a horse when the visibly-excited animal tried to mount the garda.
Another colleague had to come to his aid, but the incident was caught in a sequence of pictures and went viral, with many anti-Garda commentators making cruel jibes about the incident.
Gardai were caught on camera joking about raping a Shell to Sea protester in Mayo after they seized her pocket camera – not realising it was still recording in March 2011. GSOC found there were no grounds for any criminal case, but recommended one garda be internally disciplined. By the time GSOC made their recommendation the next year the officer had retired.
In the tape, one garda says: “She refused to give her name and address and was told she would be arrested.”
A colleague responds: “And deported.”
Before another adds: “And raped.”
His colleague says: “I wouldn’t go that far yet, she was living down at that crusty camp. F**k’s sake, you never know what you might get.”
Cameras were constantly used to record gardaí during the water charge rallys. GSOC’s annual report last year found gardaí acted proportionately in the vast majority of protests.
In another case, two gardaí were initially convicted of assaulting a man who started filming officers breaking up a fight outside the Cat and Cage pub in Drumcondra.
Shell to Sea protester Eoin Lawless said he was dragged against a van and kneed in the legs when he refused to hand over his camera.
He said the gardaí then took his camera and deleted the footage. The gardaí were fined over the matter, but successfully appealed the case.
In an unrelated incident an as yet unnamed garda is believed to have appeared in some questionable online smut, read about it here