not guilty | 

Driver (53) cleared of assaulting a cyclist in road rage incident in Co Louth

Gerard Matthews (53) was alleged to have ignored a “stop” sign and driven straight towards the cyclist.

Drogheda Independent

A confrontation on the road between a motorist and a cyclist has been recalled at the district court.

Gerard Matthews (53), Rockville, Drogheda, driver of a car, was accused of assaulting the other man causing him harm at Blackbush Lane on 21 January 2021. He contested the charge.

It was alleged he had ignored a “stop” sign and driven straight towards the cyclist before an incident occurred.

Seán Barrett claimed the defendant had attempted to strangle him. He couldn’t breathe and feared for his life.

An independent witness captured some of what occurred on his mobile phone. The footage was played in court.

Judge McKiernan remarked it was an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances.

She said there were too many disparities in the evidence and that the charge had to be dismissed.

The matter was investigated by Gda Jurgulis. Seán Barrett reported to him that at 10.50am he had been cycling up the lane from the direction of town towards Bryanstown when he was met by a red Renault Captur.

The registered owner of the car was Mr Matthews’ daughter who subsequently informed him that her father was the driver.

The defendant made a voluntary cautionary statement. He admitted being involved in an altercation and denied any assault.

Gda Jurgulis said that at the scene he saw Mr Barrett’s sunglasses were smashed and his hi-vis jacket ripped off.

Seán Barrett testified that he had cycled out to Mornington and was on the way back when a red jeep came straight towards him.

There was only room for one vehicle at a time on this road and the other driver should have stopped at the ‘stop’ sign, he said.

“I veered to the left, lost control a bit and was off my bike on the footpath.”

He continued that he had hit the car on its right side.

Mr Barrett said he went towards the driver who was ‘very aggressive and very angry with me’ and said that he had hit his car.

“He came right towards my face. I pushed him off me. He swung his right fist and smashed me in the face.”

The witness said it was lucky he was wearing a helmet. They were outside a graveyard. He screamed for help.

Mr Barrett added that he couldn’t breathe. The George Floyd case in America came to his mind.

He said the other man jumped on his back and started strangling him with his helmet.

“I realised I was done here and won’t see my kids anymore.”

He continued that a man came along and ‘saved my life’. He pushed the accused off him.

Mr Barrett said he didn’t know if there was one in Drogheda, but this person deserved a hero award.

Afterwards, his neck was very sore for a month and sleep was ‘a struggle for a week’.

There were no serious injuries to his head. His knees were ‘scraped to bits’. He went to his doctor.

The court did not allow into evidence a medical report, which the defence had objected to, describing it as a “an e-mail essentially”.

Cross-examined by barrister Ronan O’Carroll, Mr Barrett disputed that Gerard Matthews stopped because he had kicked his car.

“My life seemed worthless to him.”

Jonathan Smith gave evidence that he had driven past the graveyard.

A cyclist came up the road and a car slowed to let him past. The cyclist banged on the roof and with that they were shouting at each other.

The driver was still in the car and the cyclist was on his bike. The driver got out. The cyclist was pointing at the sign and then he got off his bike.

Seán Barrett was saying the other man should have stopped.

‘I couldn’t tell who pushed first. The driver took it further. He hit him and threw him in a hedge,’ Mr Smith said.

He wasn’t quite sure if the driver hit him with a hand or fist on the helmet.

Mr Smith added the defendant was dragging the other man towards a pole and at that point he hopped out (of his car). He feared he was going to choke him.

He had his phone in his hand. He managed to get the two men apart. The driver had been on top of the cyclist who was on his belly, face down.

He recorded the licence plate of the car before the driver got back in and drove off.

The witness told Mr O’Carroll it was ‘very possible’ the defendant was trying to restrain Mr Barrett, but he didn’t want him to choke the other man if that’s what was happening.

He said the cyclist voluntarily got off his bike and walked towards the motorist.

Re-examined, Seán Barrett said he was caused to veer and come off his bike. He thought Mr Smith was mistaken. He had no recollection of ‘smacking’ the car.

Gerard Matthews told the court he had driven from Meadow View.

The cyclist was ‘nearly through’ and he proceeded. The cyclist got angry and swung a kick at the car.

"I asked him what the problem was, and he went berserk.”

Mr Matthews said he didn’t cause the other man to come off his bike.

“He came running at me, got me in the chest and sent me back. I did not swing a fist. I grabbed him by the collar as such. We both went to the hedge.”

The defendant continued that he “laid hands on him to restrain him”. He (Seán Barrett) was ‘kicking off’ and ‘went mad’.

"He was throwing shapes. I held on to him until he calmed down.”

Mr Matthews told the judge he didn’t know why he didn’t get back into the car and leave.

Cross-examined by Inspector Kevin Toner, the witness said the cyclist ‘came at me again to do the same thing’ and that was why he grabbed him by the collar.

He denied he was choking Mr Barrett. He defended himself by grabbing the other man on the collar.

Judge McKiernan said this was an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances.

She had to look at the evidence. There were a number of disparities which created a doubt in her mind.

The charge was dismissed.


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