Garda sergeant tells wrongful arrest case remark about hitting girlfriend was 'off-the-cuff'

A garda sergeant has told the High Court when she told a man being arrested "you may hit your girlfriend, but you won't hit me", it was "an off-the-cuff remark and I meant nothing by it".

Garda sergeant tells wrongful arrest case remark about hitting girlfriend was 'off-the-cuff'

A garda sergeant has told the High Court when she told a man being arrested "you may hit your girlfriend, but you won't hit me", it was "an off-the-cuff remark and I meant nothing by it".

Sgt Theresa Phillips said she was "not proud" of what she said and it was "not advisable".

She disagreed she said it to get revenge on Gerald Jennings after she says he shouldered her while leaving an apartment he had been sleeping in before he was asked out on to the street where he was arrested. He denied shouldering her.

"I am not a vengeful person", she said. Sgt Phillips said she was not irate and never took any assault on her personally as she found people are striking out "at the uniform, not the person".

She was under cross-examination by Mark Harty SC, for Mr Jennings, who alleges he was wrongfully arrested, assaulted and falsely imprisoned by gardaí on that night and has been diagnosed as still suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result. The Garda Commissioner and the State deny the claims.

The case arises out of a random street attack on Mr Jennings' fiancée Martha Kowalczyk outside her Carlow apartment on December 2, 2012.

The court heard the attacker turned out to be student Colvin Keogh (aged 26), The Paddocks, Carlow, who was later jailed for seven years after admitting assault causing her serious harm and sexual assault.

Mr Jennings was woken by three gardaí in Ms Kowalczyk's apartment and an attempt was made to caution him on his right to remain silent after he allegedly became abusive and aggressive.

He was told his fiancée had been badly beaten and was asked to go outside where she was in an ambulance refusing to go to hospital until officers had checked Mr Jennings was alright as she believed her attacker might have got her apartment keys and gone up and attacked him too.

Gardaí claim he continued to be aggressive and violent leaving the apartment and outside, despite requests to stay calm, continued this behaviour. He had to be pepper-sprayed three times before he went to his knees and was handcuffed, they say.

Sgt Phillips told defence counsel, Conor Devally, she felt as they were all leaving the apartment that night that Mr Jennings was "not going to be reasoned with" and she feared for officers' safety.

Asked by counsel was it their intention to "lure him out on to the street", she said it was not and their only purpose was to bring him and Ms Kowalczyk together.

Cross-examined by Mr Harty, for Mr Jennings, Sgt Phillips said after Mr Jennings was arrested for breach of the peace and being drunk and disorderly, the DPP made a decision that he should not be charged. She said she and her superiors did not agree with that decision.

Asked why gardaí did not just leave Mr Jennings after finding out he was alright, Sgt Phillips said he did not seem to grasp what he was being told about his fiancée because of his heavy intoxication and having been woken up.

Sgt Phillips said she believed Mr Jennings was a possible or probable suspect in the context of a situation where gardaí were working on very little information.

It was also in the context of having been told by Ms Kowalczyk that she had not seen her attacker's face on the night. On that basis, Mr Jennings could not be ruled out, she said.

She had not seen CCTV evidence from the apartment block itself until the day after the attack.

She agreed she described him as a "main suspect" in an internal report to her superiors some 24 hours after the attack but this was part of a "rolling situation" which went on during the following day.

However, she did not suspect him while they were in the apartment to check the bathroom and his clothes for blood given Ms Kowalczyk lost blood in the attack which was visible on the ground outside.

She disagreed she said to Ms Kowalczyk she should "not protect" her boyfriend, but reassured her that if she was a victim of domestic violence gardaí would protect her.

The case continues before a judge and jury.

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