Watchdog to discipline pepper spray case gardaí

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has served disciplinary papers on one of the gardaí who were cleared in court of wrongdoing after they used pepper spray to subdue a violent youth.

The Garda Representative Association said the papers had been served on Garda Fiona Sheehan under Section 95 of Garda Síochána Act yesterday and were likely also likely to be served on Garda Brendan Dowling.

It said this was “double jeopardy” as the two had already been acquitted in court and a spokesman said it did not know the purpose of the service. Meanwhile, a retired judge has said that the State should pay the €14,000 legal bill for the two gardaí.

Former district court Judge Michael Pattwell said he believes the State is obliged to pay the full legal expenses for Garda Dowling and Garda Sheehan, who had to wait 18 months before being cleared of using excessive force by pepper-spraying a violent teenager whose own mother called him “an absolute gurrier of the highest order”.

The retired judge said he was “amazed” that the State brought the case to court in the first place, as the evidence was “so weak”.

Less than two hours into the case at Cork District Court, the State dropped it. The teenager admitted to being the ringleader of a violent attack by a gang of youths on Paul Street Shopping Centre on May 2, 2012.

Judge Olann Kelleher heard that the two gardaí had, in fact, demonstrated extraordinary restraint in how they dealt with the then 16-year-old that night.

The case was prompted after a complaint was made to the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission, which passed a file onto the DPP’s office.

“I’d expect GSOC to be a filter,” said Mr Pattwell. “They should have seen it was a non-starter. I would expect the DPP to be an even finer filter.”

He added that, as the two gardaí were acting lawfully in the course of their employment, they should be entitled to be fully indemnified by their employer.

The two gardaí have now been told to fill out a form under Section 49 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which could allow Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to contribute to their court costs.

A spokesman for Mr Shatter said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the case.

GRA central executive committee member Michael Corcoran said the gardaí would have to supply a statement of their means as part of the Section 49 application. In addition, he said, they may have to wait months to see if they would get any recompense and that any State contribution might only be a percentage of their legal costs.

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