JAIL is harder for a garda than an ordinary prisoner, a judge accepted yesterday after allowing a member of the force to walk free after serving just one day of his sentence.
The release of Dean Foley, who was on Thursday given an 18-month sentence, with 12 months suspended, for seriously assaulting a man, has been branded shocking and outrageous by Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman, Jonathan O’Brien.
Foley, a garda from Blarney, Co Cork, had his sentence fully suspended yesterday after Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin accepted a defence argument that prison time would be harder for a garda, as he would have to be “isolated” from the general prison population.
Mr O’Brien, a TD for Cork North Central, said the decision was unjust and unfair and amounted to immunity for gardaí who break the law. He said the decision reflected the mindset of sectors of society that believe that those in a position of power have more rights than ordinary people.
Foley, whose resignation from the force was accepted last night, was initially jailed for assaulting Stephen Murphy in Cork city centre in September 2009. The court heard Mr Murphy was knocked unconscious, suffered bleeding to the brain, broken teeth and broken bones to his face, and “got an unmerciful beating”.
Yesterday, however, Judge Ó Donnabháin suspended all of Foley’s sentence when it was re-entered at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
“We are in a completely different place today than we were yesterday,” he said, after hearing from Donal O’Sullivan, defence barrister, on a point in mitigation that he had omitted from his submission on Thursday.
Mr O’Sullivan submitted yesterday “it is a much more difficult thing” for a garda or prison officer to serve a sentence.
“He will have to be isolated. He inevitably will spend a greater amount of time in his cell. He will have to be kept out of the general prison population. It will be a much more difficult sentence for him.
“Going by what I am told by prison officers, he will be taken to the Midlands Prison where there is a special section to hold him. He will have to be kept separate from other prisoners. Opportunity to mingle will not be there,” Mr O’Sullivan told the court.
“I will affirm the 18 months, and suspend the balance of it as from today,” the judge said.
Foley then walked free from court amid emotional family scenes.
Picture: Dean Foley pictured at Cork Circuit Criminal Court (Cork Courts Limited)
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