Criminal damage case queries legality of garda entry

A garda entered a building after she observed blood on the floors and walls, a smashed pane of glass in the front door and feared for the safety of those inside.

However, the legality of the garda’s entry into the building was challenged yesterday.

A judge at Cork District Court dismissed a charge of criminal damage against a man allegedly caught in an ensuite bathroom, stripped to the waist and bleeding heavily.

Garda Aisling Murphy testified she had responded, around 8pm on April 13, to a call to Avondale House apartments at Model Farm Road, Cork.

“I looked in and there was bloodstained walls and blood on the stairs and glass on the floor. I knocked on the door. I called out: ‘Gardai, gardaí’.

“There was no reply. I went outside and knocked on the window. I noted there was blood on the floor in the apartment. I entered out of fear for the safety of the occupants.”

She said William Casey, 19, was located in an en suite. “He had no top. He had a cut to his hand.”

He was taken to Togher Garda Station and charged with criminal damage.

Cross-examined by solicitor Emmet Boyle, on why she entered the building, Garda Murphy said: “It was for the safety of everyone present that I entered.”

Mr Boyle made a legal submission that a guard would be entitled to enter the building with a search warrant or to effect an arrest where there had been a breach of the peace.

He said the garda in this case had neither warrant nor a belief that there had been a breach of the peace.

Inspector Fergal Foley said Garda Murphy had a duty to enter the building because of her concern for public safety arising out of the presence of blood on the walls and floor and broken glass in the area.

Insp Foley said the garda could not go in for an arrestable offence when she did not know what offence had been committed.

“Her primary objective is to protect life and property. She doesn’t know what she is going to find. What she does find is Mr Casey covered in blood. She has a duty and a lawful entitlement to be there,” Insp Foley said.

Judge Olann Kelleher asked after hearing Mr Boyle’s submission: “If there is an emergency situation does the guard have to find a judge to get a warrant to enter. If it is at the weekend someone could be dead by then.”

Mr Boyle submitted there was no actual evidence against Mr Casey of having causing criminal damage.

Inspector Foley submitted there was a strong circumstantial case against the accused, saying there was blood from the front door to the apartment and Mr Casey was inside with blood all over him.

The judge said of the criminal damage charge: “I dismiss the case on the evidence.”

Casey’s address on the charge sheet was Avondale House, Model Farm Road, where the criminal damage was discovered.


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