A Portlaoise man sentenced in the district court to six months in prison for assaulting two gardaí after he was arrested for drink driving has been given an opportunity by the circuit court to avoid a spell in jail by making a donation to the Garda Benevolent Fund.
Peter Westlake (42), 37 Lakeside Gardens, Portlaoise, was sentenced in the district court to six months in prison, and disqualified from driving for two years. He appealed this at the recent sitting of Portlaoise Circuit Court.
At the appeal, Sgt JJ Kirby gave evidence, with State solicitor, Mr Donal Dunne, that on October 2 last year, at 2.35am, the appellant was observed driving out of the church car park onto the Dublin Road in Portlaoise with no lights on.
He was arrested on suspicion of drink driving and brought to Portlaoise Garda Station.
While in the doctor’s room at the station, Westlake became violent and lashed out, striking a female garda in the face with a closed fist and then kicking her.
He attempted to headbutt a garda sergeant and then pushed him to the ground.
Sgt Kirby told the court that the punch at the female garda had been deflected, but she was very traumatised and very shaken afterwards.
Westlake had one previous conviction.
Defence, barrister, Ms Louise Troy said her client had suffered a psychotic episode in the garda station.
Ms Troy said her client suffered with an acute anxiety condition and depression and had experienced the breakdown of his marriage.
In the garda station, he suffered a panic attack and felt his throat was closing up, requiring a drink of water.
Ms Troy said her client had gone twice to the garda station to apologise, and Sgt Kirby confirmed he was very apologetic.
Ms Troy went on to say that her client had lost his job due to the driving disqualification. Westlake himself told the court that there was no chance of getting any employment without his licence.
He said that he had received advice from an independent party, who after watching CCTV footage of the incident had told him he was on privately owned property and hadn’t left the car park.
However, Judge Keenan Johnson told him the car park was a public place and the gardaí had been fully within their rights to arrest him.
“Quite clearly you were a danger to yourself and other road users,” said Judge Johnson.
Westlake also said he had consumed three glasses of Nigerian wine on the night, and was on tablets that locked his throat up. He claimed that at the garda station he leant over to get a drink of water and “the gardaí piled on top of me”.
He claimed his face was on the floor and his hands were tied, and he then collapsed in the prison cell, waking up to find himself surrounded by officers.
Judge Keenan Johnson told him: “It’s quite clear you shouldn’t be drinking on this medication, the responsibility rests with you.”
Continued the judge: “The two gardaí were carrying out their duty and you completely overreacted, perhaps due to the alcohol and tablets. You need to take responsibility for this.”
Judge Johnson affirmed the drink driving conviction, and adjourned the assault matters to June for the appellant to make a donation to the Garda Benevolent Fund.
If the donation is made, the judge said he might deal with the matter under the probation act.