Garda 'used justified force' against suspect

A garda accused of beating a suspect following a high-speed chase used justified force according to colleagues who gave evidence at his trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Several gardai told the jury that they saw the accused hit the suspect repeatedly with his baton but claimed this was not excessive as the suspect was “kicking violently”.

Garda Gerard Curtis (aged 23) of Ardee, Co Louth, has pleaded not guilty to assault and assault causing harm of Mr John Paul Maughan (aged 19) on Alexandra Road in the Dublin docklands on July 11, 2009. Mr Maughan was a passenger in a stolen car and was allegedly assaulted following a high-speed chase through the city-centre.

The jury was also shown CCTV footage of Mr Maughan’s capture. They were told the footage shows the lead-up to the arrest of Mr Maughan after he was pulled from the stolen car.

Garda Niamh Galligan, who was stationed at Store Street with Garda Curtis, told prosecuting counsel, Mr Maurice Coffey BL, that she was in a patrol car with him when they got a call about a suspected car theft at knifepoint.

They joined the chase and were first on the scene when the stolen car crashed near the water on Alexandra Road. She said Gda Curtis engaged with Mr Maughan and she agreed that the CCTV footage shows him striking the suspect with a baton.

“He used the correct amount of force as Mr Maughan was kicking out and being violent,” she told Mr Breffni Gordon BL, defending. “He (Mr Maughan) could have gone mad and you wouldn’t know what would happen.”

When Gda Galligan repeated that her colleague had not used excessive force, Judge Donagh McDonagh asked her: “Does that include putting in the boot?”

Gda Galligan replied that she had not seen that happen. Judge McDonagh then told the jury to disregard his question.

The garda told Mr Gordon that she had come across Mr Maughan several times in the city centre and said he had always been abusive to gardaí.

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 the accused to strike him with his baton. Garda PJ Gallagher said Mr Maughan was on the ground but his feet were in the air and was kicking violently.

He said Gda Curtis hit him “two or three times” on the legs. He said then he went over to them and Mr Maughan was about to spit at them when they turned him over on his stomach and handcuffed him.

Gda Gallagher said Mr Maughan continued to act aggressively and was making threats to gardaí, including threatening to bite Gda Gallagher’s nose off.

Garda Marion Harmon told Mr Coffey that she was in a chasing garda car with three other members. She said herself and her colleagues were “terrified” as they chased the stolen car.

When the stolen car crashed she said she saw Mr Maughan being taken out of the car. She said he was kicking violently and Gda Curtis hit him “four or five times” with his baton.

She said she attempted to grab Mr Maughan’s legs to prevent him from kicking Gda Curtis but stopped because she was afraid of getting kicked in the head. She added that the used of force was “absolutely necessary.”

“Gda Curtis was only protecting us, himself and everyone else there,” she told Mr Coffey.

The trial continues before Judge McDonagh and a jury of nine women and three men.

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