by Ann O'Loughlin
A Garda must pay €65,000 to a bouncer he assaulted while he was off-duty on a stag night, the High Court has ruled.
Thomas Higgins, stationed in Athlone, Co Westmeath, was ordered to pay the money to Domonikos Kalman Racz for injuries suffered in the incident in MOJO's nightclub in the Castlecourt Hotel, Westport, Co Mayo, on the night of November 11/12, 2011.
Ms Justice Caroline Costello found Mr Higgins kicked and punched Mr Racz who was trying to restrain and aggressive Mr Higgins on the night.
She dismissed a separate action brought by Mr Higgins against the Castlecourt claiming it was he who was assaulted and injured.
While she was concerned about the level of Mr Higgins' injuries, after due consideration, she could not find the hotel was responsible, and they were inflicted on him while staff were trying to manage an increasingly violent incident.
"The violence was of Mr Higgins' own making, and at all stages, he was the aggressor and increased the level of violence", she said.
The judge said Mr Racz (40) had lived happily in Westport for five years before the incident but felt he had to leave with his wife and child because of worry that a Garda could behave in this fashion in light of his experience with police in his native country, the judge said
The judge believed Mr Racz when he described the anxiety and worrying he experienced when he heard Mr Higgins was a member of the gardai. "What can be described as a flight from Ireland is an eloquent testimony to the reality and gravity of his fear", she said.
The court heard Mr Higgins travelled to Westport with two friends for a stag party. After spending the evening watching an international football match in a pub, and going to two other pubs, they ended up in MOJO's just before midnight.
Mr Racz, who is a licenced door security person, intervened earlier to stop two groups, including that of Mr Higgins, pushing each other.
Later, Mr Higgins went on to the dance floor where he was pushing young lads and later jumping up on the bar counter, he said.
Concerned by his behaviour, Mr Racz and the head of security took Mr Higgins by the arms down a stairs to the lobby.
Mr Higgins was shouting and claiming they were hurting his arm. Mr Racz denied punching him while bringing him downstairs.
Mr Higgins tried to go back up to the nightclub and at that stage kicked and punched Mr Racz.
During this, Mr Higgins was shouting abusively and saying "you don't know who I am", Mr Racz said.
Gardai arrived and handcuffed Mr Higgins.
The judge said CCTV footage showed Mr Higgins aggressively lashing out at Mr Racz with kicks and punches.
In a statement to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission, which investigated the matter, Mr Higgins said he remembered being grabbed from behind and his right arm wrenched upwards.
He also said he got boxes to his head and face and felt something, like a knuckleduster or ring, striking his cheek. He also claimed he was kicked in the chest, dragged down steps and had his head banged off a handrail.
When CCTV was shown to him, he was unable to identify himself, something which was "particularly remarkable", the judge said, as everyone else who saw the footage could identify him and one of his companions.
There was ample evidence, clearly visible in the CCTV, of Mr Higgins behaving in an erratic fashion on the dance floor, she said. The images also showed the situation become much more volatile when one of Mr Higgins' companions attacked one of the other security men, she said. It was not unreasonable for the head of security and Mr Racz to react swiftly at that point.
She did not accept submissions on Mr Higgins' behalf that he was doing nothing wrong or was removed with excessive force.