Man tells High Court of nightmare of being arrested for savage assault he did not commit

Man tells High Court of nightmare of being arrested for savage assault he did not commit
Gerald Jennings. Photo: Collins Courts

A man suing the gardaí and the State for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment told the High Court of his "nightmare" and of being on the "verge of insanity" as he was being held in a cell for a crime he did not commit.

Gerald Jennings (34), a property manager from Carlow Town, claims he was arrested because gardaí wrongly believed he had carried out a savage street assault on his fiancée.

A year and half later, the actual perpetrator, Colvin Keogh (21), a student from the Paddocks, Carlow, was jailed for seven years after he pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm and sexual assault on Mr Jennings' fiancée, beautician Martha Kowalczyk (33).

Mr Jennings says he was assaulted by gardaí in Carlow town on December 2, 2012, and he suffered serious psychological effects as a result. The defendants deny the claims.

On the second day of the case before a judge and jury, Mr Jennings said he was awoken from his sleep in Ms Kowalczyk's Centaur Street apartment by three gardaí.

Garda David Conway told him his "girlfriend had been viciously assaulted and to put your clothes on and come with us".

He said he asked if his fiancée was OK and while putting on his trousers, he heard Sergeant Theresa Phillips giving him a caution about his right to remain silent.

He said he was in total disbelief at this. A claim he shouldered Sgt Phillips as he was walking out of the apartment was "totally false", he said.

He went out on to the street where he protested he had not done anything when Garda Conway told him he would "sort you out".

He said the garda poked him three or four times in the chest and he put up his hand to indicate to him to stop when Garda Conway tried to get him in a headlock.

As he got out of the headlock, he was pepper-sprayed in his eyes.

He was told to get on his knees where he was handcuffed. He said he was pepper-sprayed at least two more times and he could hear heard Sgt Phillips say:

That's what you get for beating your girlfriend, you dirty scumbag.

He was never told his badly beaten fiancée, who had asked gardaí to check on Mr Jennings because she feared her attacker might have gone into the apartment when she lost her keys in the attack, was nearby in an ambulance refusing to go to hospital until gardaí checked on Mr Jennings.

He was taken to Carlow Garda Station and said he was hoping that someone would "get me out of this nightmare situation and that someone would come to their senses".

He had his eyes hosed out in the station yard twice to get the spray out after being refused medical attention.

He said it was minus two degrees that night and although he had a jumper and a jacket with him when leaving the apartment, he was put into cell without them, "perishing". He was wearing only a short-sleeved shirt and the blanket in the cell stank of urine.

He was told he had been arrested for drunk and disorderly and breach of the peace and he asked the officer-in-charge of processing him, David Hughes, if he could ring the family solicitor, John O'Sullivan, who is a close personal friend of his father, Bernard, a local optician.

Later, he said, Garda Hughes told him Mr O'Sullivan's phone had rung out and he had spoken to his father, who was in Dublin at an optician's conference, and said "everything was grand".

Mr Jennings said later that night, Sgt Phillips came to the cell with his sister Catherine Jennings and told him they had checked CCTV footage outside the apartment where his fiancée had been assaulted and found the perpetrator was wearing beige trousers.

When Mr Jennings asked the sergeant to apologise for her earlier "dirty scumbag" remark, he said she replied: "You are the real hero thinking of no one only yourself; you assaulted a garda, it's on CCTV".

He was kept in the cell until morning after being told he had to be monitored due to having been pepper sprayed. He said throughout the night he had no information about the ferocity of the attack on his fiancée.

He could not sleep and "my mind was just going on the verge of insanity, I could not comprehend why I am in the cell".

When he was released, he was told there was no assault on a garda charge against him. The public order charges were never proceeded with.

He broke down crying in the witness box describing when told his uncle, who picked him up from the station, about what had happened and his uncle told him he did not do anything wrong, he had nothing to worry about.

His fiancée arrived home from the hospital later that morning and he "nearly collapsed, her face and black and blue and I thought how anyone could do that to someone".

The trial continues.

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