RTÉ cameraman claims bruising to groin in altercation with garda at anti-racism protest

RTÉ cameraman claims bruising to groin in altercation with garda at anti-racism protest
Colm Hand

An RTÉ cameraman has told the trial of a garda charged with assaulting him that he suffered bruising after being struck in the groin with a baton.

Colm Hand told the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he had taken up a position near public order unit gardaí during anti-racism street protests because he believed he was safe there.

Garda Sean Lucey was detailed to one of these units during a confrontation between anti-racism protesters and gardaí who were trying to prevent them from getting to supporters of “anti-Islamisation” group.

Garda Lucey (42) has pleaded not guilty to one count of assault causing harm to Mr Hand at Cathedral Street, Dublin city centre on February 6, 2016 and to damaging his camera.

Mr Lucey has an address in south Dublin, and is a garda who has been stationed at Crumlin Village and Sundrive Road garda stations.

Anti-racism protests

Mr Hand told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that he was working with reporter Colman O'Sullivan on the day and they were to cover anti-racism protests on O'Connell Street.

He said they saw people running down North Earl Street and into a shop and he stood at the entrance to the shop to film from there. Mr Hand said that he was pushed inside by people and then pushed back out, someone said to him “no cameras” and one man pushed his camera down.

He said uniformed gardaí arrived and drew batons and pulled people out of the shop. He said at this point he took a decision to stay with gardaí because he believed the person who had pushed him was a protester.

He said:

I thought I'd be safer with the guards.

The witness said that some time later he and Mr O'Sullivan followed people who were running towards Cathedral Street. He said there was a confrontation between gardaí and protesters on one half of the road but a garda line was forming across the entire road.

He said the scene was tense and that a garda went to use his baton and he began shouting to Mr O'Sullivan “back back back”. He said he was reversing and moving parallel to the garda line when he felt the camera being violently hit by a baton from behind.

“I turned to my right. I said, you shouldn't hit cameras or something like that,” he said. He said he was no longer looking through the camera eye piece and he then saw someone coming out of the corner of his eye and was struck in the groin.

He said it was really painful and he was only able to continue filming for a very brief period. He said he saw the garda who struck him and took his badge number.

He said the screen of his mobile phone, which was in his front pocket, was smashed. He drove home and saw he had bruising across his leg and groin area.

Under cross-examination he agreed with James Dwyer SC, defending, that he was experienced in covering public order protests and had completed a hostile environment training course.

"You 'fucking' animal"

Asked if he thought it was appropriate to withdraw to a safe area when faced with direct aggression he told Mr Dwyer: “I was satisfied I was safe, there was so many gardaí around.”

He said that when the violence broke out on Cathedral Street he went straight for the gardaí “where I thought I was safe”. He said he withdrew “at the first available opportunity”.

He said that when his camera was struck he turned to face gardaí and told them “you can't hit cameras”. Mr Dwyer put it to him that he was pointed at by gardaí and told to move back and he stayed where he was.

He agreed that he said the words “you fucking animal” “when Garda Lucey hit me full force in the groin”.

Order to move back

The jury were shown footage filmed by Mr Hand on the day as well as footage from other sources.

Mr Hand denied that he had not complied with an order to move back. He said that the footage showed that he did move back when directed by gardaí.

“I am moving back. He is advancing towards me,” he said.

The trial continues before Judge Melanie Greally and a jury.

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