17 Aug 2022

Laois man accused of punching garda with brass-knuckles

Jury hears Portlaoise man allegedly threatened to rape garda's wife and burn down his house

Site decided for new Portlaoise courthouse.

The trial has begun at Portlaoise Courthouse

The trial has begun of a Portlaoise man accused of punching a garda sergeant with a brass-knuckles causing extensive dental damage and making threats to rape the sergeant’s wife and burn down his house.

At Portlaoise Circuit Court, Keith McDonagh (21), Highfield Meadows, Portlaoise, was charged with assaulting a peace officer and making threats to kill, at Colliers Lane, Portlaoise on December 7, 2016.

Following a legal submission from defence for the accused, Mr Damien Colgan SC, the charge on the indictment was changed from making threats to kill to making threats to cause serious harm.

The injured party, Sgt Aodhan O’Flaithearta gave evidence that he was on mobile patrol with Garda Kevin O'Sullivan when he observed a car with only one headlight, so the gardai followed and signalled it to stop.

The car was being driven by the accused's father, Charlie McDonagh (50), of Highfield Meadows, Portlaoise, with the accused in the passenger seat. 

Sgt O'Flaithearta said the driver was in a very agitated state and Garda O'Sullivan took his details before he returned to the patrol car.

He said the other vehicle then followed the patrol car and he could hear shouting and roaring. He described the car as being driven in an aggressive manner behind them, so he made a turn at the next roundabout to come back around behind the car and signalled it to stop.

The driver of the other car got out and was belligerent to the gardaí. Sgt O'Flaithearta said the driver believed he was being singled out for harassment by the sergeant.

Sgt O'Flaithearta said the accused then got out of the car in an extremely agitated state and began to make threats towards the sergeant.

“He completely lost the plot he was so agitated,” said Sgt O'Flaithearta.

He said the accused began to make specific serious threats. Sgt O'Flaithearta alleged that the accused told him he would find out where the sergeant lived and burn his house down.

“He was standing with his chest out roaring, ‘I’ll rape your wife and see how tough you are then,” said Sgt O'Flaithearta.

Sgt O'Flaithearta further gave evidence that he had to use pepper spray to try and arrest Keith McDonagh and the accused ran off. The sergeant then attempted to arrest Charlie McDonagh.

Sgt O'Flaithearta alleged that he was just about to restrain Charlie McDonagh, when the accused “came out of nowhere” and struck the sergeant twice to the face.

He said he lost two teeth straight away and other teeth were knocked loose. He said his bottom lip was cut and he was bleeding profusely.

Sgt O'Flaithearta removed a denture in the witness box to show the extent of his injury and told the court he was still waiting on a permanent prosthetic.

He said he could see the accused’s hand and knew he’d been hit with something.

“He had a brass-knuckles, an implement fitted over the hand, so when you hit someone you get the maximum impact,” said Sgt O'Flaithearta.

He said he found it hard to understand what had happened.

“I put my hand in (to my mouth) and there were bits everywhere,” he said.

In cross-examination, Mr Colgan put it to Sgt O'Flaithearta that after stopping the accused and his father the first time, as the gardaí drove off Sgt O'Flaithearta shouted out the window of the garda car at Charlie McDonagh and stuck his tongue out and stuck up his fingers.

Sgt O'Flaithearta denied this.

Mr Colgan said that his client would also say that when the gardaí drove off, Sgt O'Flaithearta kept stopping and slowing down, which meant Charlie McDonagh had to be careful not to hit the patrol car.

“That’s a lie,” said Sgt O'Flaithearta.

The trial continues this week at Portlaoise Courthouse.

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