Farmer loses garda assault claim

A High Court jury has dismissed a claim by a farmer, Patrick Coyle, that he was unlawfully assaulted by gardaí during an early morning protest against the Shell Corrib gas refinery in Co Mayo.

The jury was unable to reach agreement as to whether two other men, Patrick and Michael O’Donnell, were unlawfully assaulted by gardaí during the same protest on January 19, 2007.

Mr Coyle, of Barnatra, Ballina, and Patrick and Martin O’Donnell, with addresses at Porturlin, Shore, Ballina, separately sued the Garda Commissioner and State .

After almost four hours deliberation, the jury rejected Mr Coyle’s claims and failed to agree a verdict in the case of the other men.


In their separate civil actions, heard together over seven days, all three alleged the assaults occurred when gardaí were corralling protesters onto one side of the road as a convoy carrying workers to the Shell refinery was travelling on the other side.

The men alleged that they were assaulted after a Garda sergeant gave an order to remove a particular protester from the crowd.

Patrick O’Donnell alleged he was punched by a garda in the face when he went to help Mr Coyle, while Martin O’Donnell alleged he was punched by a garda when he went to the aid of his brother.

Gardaí denied there was any order from a sergeant to take a named protester out of the crowd. Their evidence was that a particular protester created a dangerous situation by crossing over the midline of the road as the Shell convoy was driving by.

Garda Marvin Lee said he was grabbed by the lapels by Patrick O’Donnell and dragged into a “frenzied” crowd and feared he might be put over the parapet of Bellanaboy Bridge.

Garda Lee’s father, Garda Peter Lee, said he used physical force to get his son away from the crowd. Both gardaí denied they assaulted any of the three men.

The judge said he would award costs against Mr Coyle and adjourned to a later date a decision on costs in the other two cases.



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