A drugs squad Garda has been spared a criminal conviction for trespassing at a house in Dublin after he had an argument with a woman.
Garda Brian MacLaughlin, aged 27, who is attached to Terenure Station and who has received numerous commendations, was told by Judge Conal Gibbons that “nobody is above the law”.
However, the judge struck out the case after the officer agreed to donate €1,000 to a charity nominated by the woman.
He had pleaded not guilty to assaulting student Niamh Reid Burke at a house on Crannagh Rd, Rathfarnham, Dublin, on Aug 19 last year. He also denied trespassing at the same addresses in a manner causing fear.
However, yesterday at Dublin District Court, the State, which had prosecuted him at the suit of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, dropped the assault charge and Garda MacLaughlin pleaded guilty to the trespassing offence.
Judge Gibbons heard that Ms Reid Burke had arranged to stay at a friend’s house at Crannagh Rd following a night out in Dublin city centre.
James Burke, GSOC’s designated investigating officer, said Ms Reid Burke went to get a taxi to her friend’s house. At Camden St, she met Garda MacLaughlin, who was also looking for a taxi. Together they travelled in a cab to Rathfarnham and when they reached the destination it was not clear whether they were at the right place. Garda MacLaughlin let Ms Reid Burke use his phone to call her friend because she had mislaid her own.
“There appears to have been some dispute between the two parties outside the house,” the GSOC officer said. The occupants of the house heard voices and came to the door and Ms Reid Burke “ran into the house”.
The GSOC officer agreed with defence solicitor Dara Robinson that Garda MacLaughlin, who has nearly seven years’ service and is attached to a drugs unit, co-operated with the investigation and had explained what had happened from his perspective.
The court heard that Garda MacLaughlin had received numerous commendations in his work and was respected by his peers and superiors. Garda Inspector George McGreary told Judge Gibbons he had supervised Garda MacLaughlin’s work for the last five years and he believed this was an isolated incident.
Mr Robinson asked the judge to note that Garda MacLaughlin was supported in court by several colleagues, was held in “extremely high regard” and a criminal conviction could adversely affect his future.
He also asked the court to note the incident stemmed from a misunderstanding and he left the scene when told to “get lost”.
Judge Gibbons noted that the officer brought €1,000 to court to be donated to Motor Neurone Disease Ireland, a charity nominated by Ms Reid Burke, who did not have to give evidence.
Striking out the case, Judge Gibbons said that the officer had not been “exactly gentlemanly”. Higher standards of behaviour are expected from gardaí but everyone can make mistakes and the officer’s conduct may have been affected by alcohol he had consumed on the night, he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved