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Guilty plea Clontarf man who kicked and broke garda's hand during arrest avoids jail

Cunningham was headbutting the cell door 'with extreme force' before kicking the garda who opened the door to stop him from hurting himself

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Lee Cunningham

Lee Cunningham

Lee Cunningham

A man who broke a garda's hand after being arrested and placed in the cell of a garda van has received a fully suspended sentence.

Lee Cunningham (24) kicked the garda who had opened the cell door to try to prevent the Cunningham from hurting himself.

Cunningham had been headbutting the cell door “with extreme force”

Cunningham of Park Lawn, Mount Prospect Avenue, Clontarf pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting Garda Ciaran Rogers causing him harm at Parnell Street, Dublin City centre, on July 13, 2020.

He has eight previous convictions, including convictions for violent behaviour in a garda station, obstruction of a peace officer, theft, possession of drugs and public order offences.

Passing sentence on Thursday, Judge Melanie Greally said the offence was committed when Cunningham was in “a state of considerable intoxication and agitation”.

Judge Greally said it was “undoubtedly a very serious and debilitating injury” which was very costly in many respects. She noted the garda was out of work for a long period of time and has had to undergo costly medical intervention.

She said it appears that Cunningham has “weathered some very difficult years in terms of his mental well-being”. She said she was not making any concession in the seriousness of the offence, but said there was “a very particular context” against which it was committed.

Judge Greally sentenced Cunningham to two years imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in its entirety on strict conditions including that he hand over €5,000 in compensation to the injured garda to do with as he sees fit.

Sergeant Paul Madden told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question gardaí were called to deal with a public order incident on Parnell St. Gardaí arrested Cunningham and placed in a cell in the back of a garda van for transport to a garda station.

Sgt Madden said Cunningham began headbutting the door of the cell with “extreme force”. Gda Rogers made the decision to open the cell in an attempt to stop him causing injury to himself.

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Cunningham initially sat back when the door was opened, but then gave himself space to kick Gda Rogers to his right hand. Gda Rogers got the assistance of a colleague to close the cell door.

Gda Rogers sustained a broken bone in his right hand as a result of the kick. Two screws had to be inserted into his hand and he is expected to require further surgery.

The garda was unable to work for three-and-a-half months and lost around €3,500 in overtime pay, but has now returned to work.

Sgt Madden agreed with Maria Brosnan BL, defending, that her client had €5,000 in compensation before the court, which was a huge amount for her client as he is working part-time in a shop.

The sergeant agreed with counsel that this was her client's first appearance before the Circuit Court and that his previous offending behaviour took place over a 13-month period.

Ms Brosnan said a friend of her client died by suicide in 2018 and this had a huge affect on him. She said her client carried out a number of public order offences in the aftermath.

Counsel said her client has engaged with a psychologist for eleven months and is addressing his ADHD, which was undiagnosed until recently. She said he was also substance free, which might have been “a characteristic” of his previous offending behaviour.

She said her client's girlfriend has been a very good influence on him and submitted he has done a lot of growing up in the last year since the incident.

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