A garda “whipped” and “pounded” a man with his baton while he was on the ground, it has been alleged at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
The court heard that the alleged victim died later that day but that the prosecution accepted that this was due to a drug overdose and unrelated to the garda’s actions.
Garda Brendan Whitty (aged 33), stationed at Kevin Street Garda Station, has pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to the late Mr Keith Murphy on Thomas Street, Dublin 2, on September 20, 2007.
The trial heard from several witnesses who were on Thomas Street at the time of the incident. One man claimed Gda Whitty was doing what was necessary to “control the situation” and arrest Mr Murphy.
Another witness claimed the garda was “whipping” Mr Murphy with his baton as he lay on the ground shouting: “I didn’t do anything!”
Opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Shane Costelloe BL, told the jury that Gda Whitty used his ASP extendable baton while attempting to arrest Mr Murphy. He said he struck him a number of times before other gardaí arrived and took Mr Murphy away.
Mr Murphy was charged with a public order offence and released soon after. Mr Costelloe said that later that evening, Mr Murphy was found in a comatose state and brought to hospital where he died a short time.
Mr Costelloe told the jury that the law allowed for Gda Whitty to use a certain amount of force when making an arrest, if the situation requires it. He said it was up to the jury to decide whether Gda Whitty “acted within the parameters of the (Non Fatal Offences against the Person) act.”
Mr Richard O’Callaghan told Mr Costelloe that he was on the street when he saw a “gentleman assaulting another gentleman.”
He said he saw a garda “beating the s**t out of the young lad” who was on the ground. Mr O’Callaghan said the man was trying to get up and shouting “I didn’t do anything” while the garda was “pounding down on top of him”.
He said the man was struck “umpteen times, 10 or 11” and that “it was so rapid it was hard to count”.
Defence counsel, Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, asked Mr O’Callaghan if he had an “issue with gardaí” and if he had any previous convictions.
“I’m not on trial here”, Mr O’Callaghan responded before admitting he had several convictions but that they were from “the last century”.
When asked how his memory is, the witness replied that it was “not that good” but that he could remember things when reminded of them. He agreed with Mr Hartnett that he did not make a statement to gardaí until two years after the incident.
Ms Elizabeth McCabe said she was waiting at a bus stop when she saw a garda interacting with two men. She said the garda gestured for one man to move away and when he refused the garda tried to arrest him.
She said the garda got a handcuff on one of the man’s wrists and was shouting at him to get down. She said the alleged victim looked very unsteady on his feet and appeared to be “on something”.
She said he could not get down quick enough so the garda started to hit him about the legs with a baton.
“He was trying to knock him down, take the legs from under him,” she told Mr Costelloe.
She said he was hit about five or six times before the garda called for backup on his radio and the man was arrested.
Mr Desmond O’Dowd said he was employed as a security guard for a business when he saw the garda and the man talking. He said the man pushed the garda back causing his hat to fall off. He said the garda took a small step back, took out his baton and shouted repeatedly at the man to get down.
He said the man was being abusive towards the garda and when he would not get on the ground, the garda started to hit him. He said he hit him around 10 times, mainly on the legs.
Mr O’Dowd agreed with Mr Hartnett that the man had attacked the garda prior to being hit. He said the garda immediately put away his baton when the man went down and that the garda’s movements were controlled.
Ms Sharon Doyle gave evidence that she was working in a jewellers on Thomas Street when she went to the window after she heard screams. She said she saw a garda “constantly hitting” a man who was “on his hunkers”.
“He was down on his hunkers, there was no need for him to keep getting hit by the guard,” she said. “That’s why I got so upset.”
The trial continues before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of six men and six women.