Trainee barber who lit firework which left garda scarred walks free from court

The blast of the firework caused burn injuries to Sgt Caroline Keogh’s upper legs and also a laceration to her hand which required medical treatment

Dylan Smith, Devine Crescent, Edgeworthstown

Dylan Smith

Liam CosgroveSunday World

A trainee barber who deliberately planted a firework inside a traffic cone that exploded in front of a female garda leaving her with burns to her legs and a scar on her hand has walked free from court.

Dylan Smith (22) Devine Crescent, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, was charged with reckless endangerment which created a substantial risk of death or serious harm and of throwing, directing or propelling an ignited firework towards a person or property at Quinns Hardware Car Park, Main Street, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford on April 25 last year.

Smith had previously pleaded guilty to the latter charge but contested the reckless endangerment charge on a point of law.

The court heard how Smith, together with two friends inadvertently came across the firework at around 11:30pm on the night in question before placing it into a traffic cone along with a piece of tissue paper.

Sgt Paul Carney told a special sitting of Longford District Court Smith was seen on CCTV footage lighting the tissue before running away as one of his friends filmed the incident on his mobile phone.

Judge Vincent Deane was told Sgt Caroline Keogh, who was on her own, entered the car park in a garda patrol car moments later and spotted the tissue alight on top of the cone.

“Sgt Keogh moved towards it in order to extinguish the flame before it caused more damage,” he said.

“Upon approaching the cone, the firework exploded unexpectedly directly in front of Sgt Keogh.

“The blast of the firework caused burn injuries to Sgt Keogh’s upper legs and also a laceration to her hand which required medical treatment.”

Smith later handed himself into gardaí at Edgeworthstown garda station where, the court heard, the accused made “fulsome” admissions over the incident.

The court was informed Smith, who has no previous convictions, later handed in a letter of apology to Sgt Keogh.

In a victim impact statement read out to the court by Inspector Declan McGlynn on behalf of Sgt Keogh, the Edgeworthstown based garda told of how the blast from the firework was so substantial, it blew her garda patrol car keys from her hand.

“I was dazed, my eyesight went black momentarily and all I could hear was ringing in my ears,” she said.

In shock at what had just unfolded, Sgt Keogh said she managed to return to her car and phone her colleagues for assistance, a number of whom arrived on the scene seconds later.

Dylan Smith

She said the fallout from the incident had a profound impact on her everyday sense of self assurance.

“This incident caused me to react with a rollercoaster of emotions,” she said.

“I went from feeling lucky, to feeling stupid and then feeling sorry for myself.

“My confidence was completely knocked as a result of this incident and my anxiety has increased as a result of this incident.

“When I watched the CCTV of the incident I felt saddened to think the young person involved watched me drive into the car park and made no attempt to advise me to prevent what happened.”

Defence barrister Niall Flynn had argued, using case law, that his client was not guilty of reckless endangerment by the terms set out in the charge.

“On the basis of recklessness a person has to avert their mind to the risk that the action could cause death or serious harm,” he said.

“There is no evidence in this case or before the court of Mr Smith averting his mind to a risk of causing death or serious injury.

“Undoubtedly there was harm caused. Sgt Keogh suffered injuries at a lot lesser level than what the legislature provides for in relation to creating a substantial risk of death and serious injury.”

Judge Deane dismissed that submission, however, saying that while the parameters of the case fell at the “lower level” of reckless endangerment, Smith was well aware of his actions on the night in question.

“I think with the actions of Mr Smith there as advertance,” he said.

“He was there with his friends, he knew there was danger and that’s why they put it in the middle of the car park, lit it and withdrew themselves and turned their mind to danger.

“This wasn’t just a matter of lighting the firework, this was an ongoing act and they were even trying to video it.”

Mr Flynn said Smith had previously been employed with Center Parcs, but due to previous press coverage of the case, had been let go and was now plying his trade as a trainer barber in Ballymote, Co Sligo.

The court was further informed Smith had come to court with €2,000 in compensation, a sum Sgt Keogh said she was willing to accept.

In imposing sentence for the endangerment charge, Judge Deane applied Section 1(1) of the Probation Act.

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