An off-duty garda who suffered physical and psychiatric injuries as a result of a serious assault while trying to break up a fight in Sligo 15 years ago has been awarded almost €50,000 in compensation by the High Court.
Garda David Foley, aged 35, who is stationed in Galway, sued the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for damages under the An Garda Síochána (Compensation) Acts as his injuries were inflicted because of his role as a garda.
However, Ms Justice Mary Rose Gearty rejected the garda’s claim that he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the incident.
The High Court heard there was a dispute between the parties about the extent of psychiatric injuries suffered by the plaintiff, although it was accepted he had a medically verifiable psychiatric injury.
Garda Foley’s medical advisor had diagnosed that he suffered from PTSD, while the respondent’s advisor claimed he merely suffered from an anxiety disorder.
However, the judge said Garda Foley had not produced sufficient enough evidence to safely conclude that he probably suffered from PTSD.
She said the most likely diagnosis was one of anxiety disorder which falls short of the critical condition for PTSD.
The judge claimed the fact that Garda Foley continued to experience residual symptoms for seven years after the event was probably due to his condition not being treated.
The High Court heard Garda Foley was socialising with friends in Sligo town in January 2006 when one of his friends was attacked by a group of three men in an unprovoked assault.
The plaintiff received a series of punches to the face after he attempted to intervene by producing his garda ID card.
One of the assailants was heard to remark that he “always wanted to kick the shit out of a guard”.
After Garda Foley lost his balance and fell to the ground, his attacker struck him one final blow in the mouth causing him to blackout momentarily.
Garda Foley subsequently received treatment in hospital for a fractured tooth and nasal bridge and soft tissue injuries to his lip and eye.
The judge noted that the victim was punched repeatedly in the face and was beaten until he was unconscious and feared for his life.
Ms Justice Gearty said it was a severe and violent assault with an element of personal vindictiveness because he was a garda.
The High Court was provided with medical notes from January 2009 which recorded how Garda Foley no longer went into Sligo and had become more cautious and withdrawn socially as well as suffering mood swings.
Another psychiatrist, who assessed the plaintiff in May 2010, noted that he continued to feel threatened four years after the assault at a time when he was working in Galway as local criminals knew the history of his case.
He also recorded Garda Foley as saying he suffered frequent flashbacks or vivid memories of the assault on a daily basis while also experiencing anxiety and occasional panic attacks as well as lacking energy and motivation.
The psychiatric report said the assault had a severe effect on Garda Foley’s social life as he avoided crowded pubs and going out on Saturday evenings as well as causing relationship difficulties with his then girlfriend.
Ms Justice Gearty said there was no question of Garda Foley’s bona fides as all parties accepted he was a genuine and candid witness.
She awarded the father of four total compensation of €49,622, comprising €45,000 in general damages and €3,122 for special damages and €1,500 for future dental treatment.