Jail for assault on gardaí

TWO Portlaoise men have been jailed for assaulting two members of the gardaí so badly, one of the officers took early retirement while the other is now on limited duties.

TWO Portlaoise men have been jailed for assaulting two members of the gardaí so badly, one of the officers took early retirement while the other is now on limited duties.

John O’Shea, 20 O’Moore Place, and Michael Houlihan, 10 Lakeglen, Portlaoise, pleaded guilty to assault at Barmondays, Portlaoise, on July 12, 2010. At the Circuit Court in May, State prosecutor Mr Will Fennelly and Sgt Michael Tarpey gave evidence that gardaí discovered a group of people in Barmondays pub in Portlaoise just after midnight on that date, and the owner of the bar was having a heated exchange with the two defendants.

Sgt Tarpey said the gardaí were met with extreme resistance when they attempted to clear the bar and Houlihan was heard to say, “f**k the guards” and “I don’t give a f**k about the guards”. O’Shea began giving verbal abuse to Garda Alan Dunford and the garda tried to arrest him.

A violent scuffle broke out and O’Shea and Garda Dunford fell to the ground, with O’Shea on top. O’Shea then kicked Garda Dunford while he was on the ground. Garda Jim Downey was being abused by Houlihan and an arrest was attempted, but Houlihan “manhandled” the garda and threw him across the bar. The court heard that Garda Downey hit the pool table with his back.

Sgt Tarpey told the court that no arrests were made on the night, due to limited garda manpower and the resistance in the pub being so great.

Details of the guards’ injuries were read out by Sgt Tarpey.

Garda Jim Downey never returned to duty after that night. Even though Garda Downey had ten years left to serve, on medical advice he decided to retire early as he was told there was a low success rate for the operation needed to fix his back.

Garda Alan Dunford was off duty for nine months in total after the attack. He suffers with back pain and has been seeing a consultant ever since. Garda Dunford is now on limited duties at work and has experienced trouble sleeping.

At the May court, Judge Anthony Hunt said that O’Shea deserved a custodial sentence, but he put the matter back for an up-to-date probation report. In relation to Houlihan, the judge accepted that he was co-operating with the probation service but he remanded Houlihan in custody to October 25 for sentencing and ordered a governor’s report.

When the two appeared back before the judge in October, Sgt Tarpey gave evidence that O’Shea had since appeared in the District Court in July, where he was convicted of 13 different offences. Two of the offences were committed after the assault on the gardaí.

Defence for the defendants were Ms Geraldine Fitzpatrick (Houlihan) and Mr Barry Finlay (O’Shea). Ms Fitzpatrick said there was a lenghty probation report on her client and she claimed he had since come to terms with his alcohol problem.

“He realises that his four children coming to visit him in prison is inappropriate, it’s not the life he wants,” she said.

Mr Finlay offered no mitigation for O’Shea in relation to the new convictions and he asked Judge Hunt to simply “do the best you can” for his client.

Judge Hunt said it was a very serious case and there was a public interest in protecting the gardaí from such an attack. He noted that Houlihan had a positive probation report which indicated a moderate risk of re-offening and had displayed regret, but he said that O’Shea had not stayed out of trouble and had acquired new convictions.

He imposed three-years on each man, but suspended the last year for O’Shea on condition he enter into a bond of €300 to keep the peace and engage with the probation service upon his release. Due to Houlihan’s “weightier mitigation”, the judge suspended two years of his three-year sentence, on condition he keep the peace for two years upon his release and engage with the probation service for 12 months. The judge backdated Houlihan’s sentence to May 18, the date he went into custody.