Gardaí cleared in pepper spray case

Two gardaí who were accused of assaulting a teenager with pepper spray following his arrest in Cork City have been cleared after the charges were withdrawn yesterday.

One of the gardaí said afterwards that the case should never have been brought.

Garda Brendan Dowling warned it will make members of the force think twice about using pepper spray, if the threat of prosecution is hanging over them.

The decision by the State to withdraw the charges came after almost two hours of evidence at Cork District Court yesterday, during which the teenager admitted under cross-examination that he was the ringleader of a “violent and sustained attack” by a gang of youths on Paul Street Shopping Centre on May 12, 2012.

The teenager, who was 16 at the time and cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted to Judge Olann Kelleher under oath that he was drunk at the time, and would lie in the witness box to protect friends.

The court was told his mother has described him as an “absolute gurrier of the highest order” and that he was pepper sprayed after he began headbutting the window of a Garda car.

He complained to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission two days after his arrest and, following a GSOC probe, the DPP directed that Garda Dowling, aged 46, and Garda Fiona Sheehan, 27, both with addresses care of Anglesea Street Garda Station, be charged with assault causing harm to the teenager at Cook St in Cork City in May 2012.

Prosecution was brought under Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act. Both gardaí had denied the charges.

Following two hours of evidence, State solicitor for Cork City Frank Nyhan said the charges were being withdrawn.

Judge Kelleher said, based on what he had heard, there was no evidence to suggest the gardaí had used pepper spray in any manner not in accordance with the law.

Speaking in his capacity as a civilian afterwards, Garda Dowling said: “This case should never have been brought. It sends out the wrong message that gardaí could face prosecution for doing their job.

“Bringing the case has done damage insofar as people who provide services will be reluctant to use the tools they are given in case they are prosecuted.”

Court past

The 17-year-old at the centre of this case has been before the courts on several occasions, with up to 22 previous convictions, including:

- Dec 18, 2011: Convicted of two counts of assault;

- Feb 16, 2012: Convicted of engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour;

- Feb 24, 2012: Convicted on two counts of failing to follow Garda instructions, and of engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour;

- May 12, 2012: Convicted of public order and criminal damage offences relating to the incident at Paul Street Shopping Centre;

- May 28, 2012: Convicted of public order offence;

- Jul 9, 2012: Convicted of threatening or abusive behaviour;

- Jan 10, 2013: Convicted of criminal damage offence;

- Feb 8, 2013: Convicted,public order offence; nSept 20, 2013: Convicted of public order offence.

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