A judge has ordered that a garda be found not guilty of assaulting a suspect despite comparing the incident to the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles.
Garda Gerard Curtis was found not guilty by direction of Judge Donagh McDonagh after he ruled that the prosecution failed to disprove the garda was acting in self-defence when he hit the suspect with his baton following a high-speed car chase.
Gda Curtis (aged 23) of Ardee, Co Louth, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault and assault causing harm of Mr John Paul Maughan (aged 19) on Alexandra Road in the Dublin Docks on July 11, 2009.
Judge McDonagh ordered the jury to acquit Gda Curtis, telling them the prosecution had failed to disprove the accused was acting in self-defence. During the five day-trial, the jury heard from several garda witnesses that Gda Curtis had used justified force.
However referring to the CCTV recording of the incident, Judge McDonagh commented: “On first viewing one is reminded of the Rodney King beating.”
“Self control was sadly lacking”, he told the court in the absence of the jury. “This to me is a case of a single garda overreacting.”
He also questioned why gardaí decided to smash the car’s windows instead of waiting for Mr Maughan and his accomplice to get out when Mr Maughan was clearly not going to escape after the stolen vehicle crashed.
“I do not believe flight was possible, nor do I believe the gardaí thought flight was possible.”
Referring to the other gardaí who gave evidence, Judge McDonagh said: “I do not believe his colleagues bathed themselves in glory either. Too much of the evidence in this trial was clearly partisan.”
On Tuesday the jury were shown footage of the moment when the car crashed and Mr Maughan was dragged out. Around 15 gardaí arrived quickly on the scene and a garda can be seen striking the suspect with his baton, although Mr Maughan himself is partly concealed in the footage by other gardaí.
Several gardaí gave evidence that Mr Maughan was kicking out violently during the arrest and getting ready to spit at them.
Gda Niamh Galligan, who is stationed at Store Street with Garda Curtis, told defence counsel, Mr Breffni Gordon BL, “He used the correct amount of force as Mr Maughan was kicking out and being violent.”
“He (Mr Maughan) could have gone mad and you wouldn’t know what would happen,” she added.
She called Gda Curtis “a colleague and a friend” who she was standing by but said she was giving her professional opinion in court.
Another garda who arrived on the scene also said Mr Maughan was acting violently enough for Gda Curtis to strike him with his baton. Gda PJ Gallagher said Mr Maughan was on the ground but kicking violently
Gda Gallagher said Mr Maughan continued to act aggressively after his arrest and was making threats to gardaí, including threatening to bite Gda Gallagher’s nose off.
Mr Maughan told Mr Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, that gardaí surrounded the car before the passenger window was smashed with a baton and he was pulled through. He said he told the gardaí to relax and then put his arms out so he could be handcuffed.
He claimed the group of gardaí ignored him and started to hit him with their batons and kick him, leaving him with cuts and bruises over his body.
He said they then pulled him up and handcuffed him before kicking him again and putting him in a garda van. He said he could not identify any of his alleged attackers.
Judge McDonagh thanked the jury for their attendance before dismissing them and telling Gda Curtis he was free to go.