Sergeant: I didn’t witness assaults

From left, Martin O'Donnell, Patrick Coyle, and Patrick O'Donnell, leaving court after the fourth day of their action.

A Garda sergeant has told the High Court he did not see any assaults by gardaí on three local men during a protest against the Shell Corrib gas refinery in north Mayo.

There was pushing and shoving by both gardaí and protesters as a convoy of Shell workers approached the refinery on January 19, 2007, Sgt Dermot Butler said.

He was present when two fishermen, brothers Patrick and Martin O’Donnell, approached a Garda filming the protest and asked him to record their injuries, Sgt Butler said. He was aware another local man, Patrick Coyle, made a complaint at Belmullet Garda Station later that day alleging he was assaulted by two gardaí.

Sgt Butler agreed with Micheál P O’Higgins, counsel for the three men, there was “objective evidence” of injuries to them.

He denied he had issued a direction to take a particular protestor out of the crowd.

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Sgt Butler said certain protocols apply when a complaint is made about a garda, he himself was not involved in investigating the men’s complaints and the senior officer in charge of the protest was an inspector who was not in court.

Garda Finbarr Thomas said on January 19, 2007, the crowd “got a bit boisterous” as the convoy approached the refinery. One protester tried to cross the centre road line, refused to move back when Garda Marvin Lee asked him to, and lunged at Garda Lee when the Garda pushed him back, he said.

He told the court Patrick O’Donnell came out of the crowd and pulled Garda Lee by the lapels into the body of the protesters. There was a “bit of a free for all” during which some protesters lunged at Garda Lee who was trying to break free from Mr O’Donnell’s grasp, he said.

He said he also saw Martin O’Donnell and Patrick Coyle “swinging punches”, there were “fists flying everywhere”, it all happened in 10 to 14 seconds and Garda Lee was pulled back out of the crowd.

Earlier, Martin O’Donnell denied a suggestion by Colm Smyth, counsel for the State, he tried to throw punches at a Garda during the protest or threatened to kill gardaí. Mr O’Donnell said he who was punched a few times fast in the face by Garda Peter Lee. Mr O’Donnell denied as “totally untrue” counsel’s suggestion injuries suffered by him, including a laceration to his eye and cheek injuries, were due to “your own actions and own unlawful activity” during the protest.

The cases continues today.

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