Four gardaí have gone on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for allegedly forcing their way into a flat without a warrant and beating up a male occupant.
Gardai Sean O’Leary, Eoin Murtagh, Alan Conlon and Claire Delaney have pleaded not guilty to forcing entry to a Basin Street Upper premises, entering as trespassers and assaulting Owen Gaffney causing him harm on February 17, 2008.
Gda Murtagh, Gda Conlon and Gda Delaney have also pleaded not guilty to the false imprisonment of Fidelma Gaffney on the same occasion.
Gdi O’Leary, Murtagh and Delaney are based in Kilmainham garda station and Gda Conlon is based at Kevin Street garda station.
In his opening address to the jury Mr Tom O’Connell SC, prosecuting, said there would be evidence that the four accused went to the Basin Street address with no warrant and locked Ms Gaffney in her bathroom for five minutes by taking turns to hold the door closed, while they assaulted her son in his bedroom.
Mr O’Connell, with Mr Ronan Kennedy BL, said the prosecution alleges that Owen Gaffney was kicked, punched and beaten by at least one baton as he lay resting on his bed after a football game earlier that day.
He said it was the prosecution’s case that these four accused went to Mr Gaffney’s home in a joint enterprise to commit assault.
He pointed out that gardai may not enter a dwelling without a search warrant, an arrest warrant or reasonable suspicion that a person on the premises has committed a serious offence.
He told the jury that the police force is subject to the rule of law like everyone else in the State and they must behave accordingly with the rules.
He revealed that another garda witness will say Gda Conlon had been driving around the Basin Street area that day looking for someone, before he met Gdi O’Leary, Delaney and Murtagh in their patrol car at Heuston Station and again on James Street between 5 and 6 pm.
Mr O’Connell said a student garda who had been travelling with the Kilmainham accused will give evidence that both vehicles then left James Street for Basin Street, followed by a third garda car.
He said this witness, then Student Garda Catherine Patterson, will say she followed the four accused into the Basin Street flat, saw Gda Delaney “wave a piece of paper” she knew was not a warrant at Fidelma Gaffney and watched Gdi O’Leary, Conlon and Murtagh go upstairs to find Owen Gaffney.
He said Student Gda Patterson will say she saw Gda Murtagh push Ms Gaffney into the upstairs bathroom and hold the door shut, before switching with Gda Conlon as he came out of Mr Gaffney’s bedroom.
Counsel said the student garda will give evidence that she heard Mr Gaffney scream and moan behind the closed bedroom door, and that she later noticed blood on Gda Murtagh’s knuckles and saw Gda O’Leary wipe his baton with an antiseptic wipe on the way back to Kilmainham Garda Station.
Mr O’Connell said another student garda, who had been accompanying Gda Conlon in his car, will say she heard a woman screaming from inside the Basin Street premises during the incident.
He told the jury that this student garda will give evidence of what Gda Conlon did and said in the patrol car, including mentioning an incident the previous night in which Gda Murtagh went to help colleagues dealing with civilians as he came off-duty.
Mr O’Connell said it was alleged Mr Gaffney had been involved in this altercation.
He said Ms Fidelma Gaffney will say she opened her door to a large number of uniformed gardai between 5 and 5.30 pm that Sunday afternoon.
He said Ms Gaffney will testify that she was never shown a warrant, that she followed four gardai into her son’s bedroom and saw Gda O’Leary lift the duvet cover and hit her son over the head with a baton. He said she will also claim she was forced out of the room and into the bathroom by someone grabbing her arm and throat.
Mr O’Connell said Owen Gaffney will say he heard his bedroom door open before seeing Gda O’Leary by his bed.
He said Mr Gaffney will give evidence that Gda O’Leary hit him on the top of his head with a baton, pushed his face against the bed post before other gardaí started punching and kicking him.
Mr O’Connell told the jury that Mr Gaffney will say his father later took him to St James Hospital A&E where he was treated for a 2cm bruise to his head, a swollen nose with evidence of nose bleeding, a bruised lip, a laceration on his upper arm, bruising to his chest wall and tenderness on one of his ribs.
Mr O’Connell said a young family friend, Mr Zachary Purcell, will give evidence that he phoned Ms Gaffney as gardaí were approaching the flat and managed to record audio from the incident on his mobile as Ms Gaffney had left her phone on the line when she opened the front door.
Mr O’Connell said Mr Purcell backed up this recording on a memory stick.
He said another civilian witness on the premises will say he saw Mr Gaffney’s face bloodied and his body covered in bruises when he came downstairs after the incident.
Mr O’Connell said the jury will also hear how a senior officer at Kilmainham garda station was not aware of any scheduled garda search or house call to the Basin Street area that day.
He said this member, Sergeant Collette Wheeler, will say she noticed Gda Murtagh with an obvious injury to his neck the following Tuesday and skinned knuckles.
Mr O’Connell said there will also be forensic evidence that a mixed DNA profile matching Gda Murtagh and Owen Gaffney was found on a baton seized during the investigation.
The trial continues before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of six men and six women.