Reclaim Streets case garda given one-month sentence

A garda has been given a one-month suspended sentence for assaulting a school teacher in the 2002 May Day "Reclaim the Streets" demonstration, in Dublin city centre.

Garda Paul Daly (aged 26), a father of one, was found guilty by a 11-1 majority by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on November 6 last of assault on Mr Emmet Bunting (aged 28) of Collins Avenue Dublin, on May 6, 2002.

The jury acquitted him and his colleague, Garda Fergus Hogan, on charges of assault causing harm to Mr Bunting.

Judge Yvonne Murphy noted that garda Daly’s conviction was for an offence formerly known as common assault and that he was acquitted of the more serious charge against him.

Judge Murphy said she endorsed the hope expressed in evidence by senior officers that garda Daly would return to his work as a community policeman at which they said he had "an exemplary record" without any blemishes on his record.

"Nevertheless, while it has been urged on me that his offence was of a technical nature, the jury has convicted him of using unlawful force," she said.

Judge Murphy also noted that garda Daly had been involved earlier that day in mid-afternoon in what she called was obviously from viewing a video recording was "a very frightening incident" as a result of which she thought senior gardaí should have excused him from further duty.

Judge Murphy said she would refused garda Daly’s offer of 3,000 which she said wasn’t offered as compensation or as a sign of his remorse.

Mr Gerard Clarke SC, defending, had told Judge Murphy on Thursday that his client had Euro €3,000 available which could be given to charity or used as compensation.

Judge Murphy refused the application by garda Daly’s defence team for leave to appeal his conviction on the grounds that the assault charge should not have been put to the jury. She allowed garda Daly two counsel and a solicitor to pursue the appeal in another court.

Detective Inspector Colm Featherstone told Mr Tom O’Connell SC, (with Mr Bernard Condon BL), prosecuting, that garda Daly was caught on camera hitting Mr Bunting with a baton, after he had fallen to the ground, following a punch from an unidentified garda.

He agreed with Mr O’Connell that there was no evidence to prove that the facial injuries Mr Bunting sustained could be attributed to the baton blows made by garda Daly.

Mr Clarke (with Mr Breffni Gordon BL) had applied Judge Murphy for the conditional discharge of his client on the grounds that the assault was "little more than a technical assault" and usually such summary offences were dealt with in the district courts.

Mr Clarke also criticised the prosecution’s case during the trial, claiming that it was aware from the outset that garda Daly should not have been charged with assault causing harm.

Mr Clarke said it was obvious from video footage that garda Daly had struck Mr Bunting on the lower torso and back, not on the head as the prosecution had stated in opening the case.

He said the jury should not have been allowed to consider the alternative verdict of assault because such summary offences should be dealt with summarily in the district couts.

Mr Clarke informed Judge Murphy that he intended to appeal the decision to leave the option of reducing the original charge to assault to the jury.

Mr O’Connell replied that Mr Clarke had every opportunity to plead this in the trial but never made such an application to Judge Murphy.

Mr Clarke also pleaded with Judge Murphy to consider the consequences of the outcome of this sentence for garda Daly’s future career.

Superintendent Thomas Conway told the court that he knew garda Daly since he joined Pearse Street Garda Station in September 1999.

Supt Conway said garda Daly was immediately thought a suitable candidate to work in the community policing unit and had been highly commended in his work with the community projects in the area, particularly those that dealt with the young and the elderly.

He described him as always being very efficient, very professional and very effective in his duties.

Inspector Brendan Connolly agreed with Mr Clarke that garda Daly had been under stress on the day of the protest.

He said garda Daly had been leaning in through the window of a car that was blocking Burgh Quay to try to get it out of the way when a protester broke the passenger window with a crutch and threw a smoke bomb in on top of him.

Insp Connolly said garda Daly was then struck with this protester’s crutch but he maintained a calm demeanour at all times and managed to move the car away.

He agreed with Mr Clarke that garda Daly was shocked and stressed by this incident but he remained professional at all times and continued to assist other gardaí in diffusing the situation.

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