Garda dogs left their mark on innocent victims

People who fell foul of garda dogs faced “ruff justice” in the 1960s.

The Department of Justice had to pay out several settlements after the over-enthusiastic alsatians sank their teeth into a soldier, a dairy worker and a drunk.

According to files released by the National Archives under the 30-year-rule, the dogs were extremely effective at dispersing crowds of rioters or youths fighting outside discos.

Police dog Duke went into action in July 1962 during a disturbance outside a pub in North Earl Street in Dublin and met a man named Noel O’Kelly, from Harold’s Cross.

The garda report detailed how O’Kelly was “maudlin drunk” and insisted on approaching Duke’s garda handler.

“Garda Brendan Maher warned him several times to keep back or the dog would attack him. Eventually O’Kelly put his hand on the guard’s shoulder and the crowd surged forward.

“Immediately the police dog sprang forward and bit a number of people, including O’Kelly and Miss Bridget King, who had her arm linked through her companion’s arm,” the report said.

O’Kelly was left with a cut on his left ear and arm, while his girlfriend got a one-inch cut and a three-inch scratch on her right arm.

“It will be noted that when the dog bit him, O’Kelly went about the bystanders showing them his arm and addressed Garda Maher as ‘f****** rotten cop’,” the report said.

For his troubles, O’Kelly was charged with assault and a breach of the peace and there is no record in the files of him making a claim for damages.

Police dog Duke was let loose again two months later, in September 1962, to track down two car thieves who had abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot through the Archbishop of Dublin’s palace in Drumcondra.

But his handler – the unfortunate Garda Maher again – forgot to put on Duke’s lead and this led to the dog biting a soldier waiting at a bus stop on the left elbow.

The Department of Justice paid out 25 pounds in compensation to the soldier, Private Sean Fitzsimmons, in 1963.

The relative inexperience of the Garda Dog Unit – it had just been established in 1960 – may explain some of the biting incidents.

Police dog Barron bit a 23-year-old dairy worker in Crumlin in 1968 as she was passing on the footpath. Marie Collins was found to have teeth marks on the side of her waist and had to stay off work.

“Police dog Barron is normally a very quiet dog and this is the first occasion the animal has ever come under notice in this regard,” the garda report noted regretfully.

The chief state solicitor authorised an undisclosed settlement with Ms Collins later that year.


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