Pair claimed to be acting in self-defence
Four Westport men appeared in court last Thursday charged with obstruction of gardaí while two of them were charged with assault of a garda. The court heard that Garda William Grant was thumped and kicked on the ground after he attempted to arrest a man who refused to move on.
Geoffrey King of 6, Springfield Drive, The Quay, Westport, and Mark Conway of 9, Woodlands Drive, The Quay, Westport, were both charged with assaulting Garda Grant and obstructing him, while David Healy of 15, Ocean View, Westport and Seán McFadden of 14, Quay Village, Westport were both charged with obstruction on the same night. The four all pleaded guilty to the charges.
Sergeant Gary Walsh told the court that at approximately 10pm on the night of Friday, October 28, 2011, Garda Grant and Garda Mark Irwin of the Mayo Drugs Squad were parked in traffic on Linenhall Street when they noticed two men standing talking on the street, one of whom had a pint glass in his hand.
Garda Grant, the court was told, got out of the car and asked the men to move on. He said that one of the men, David Healy, said ‘what the f*** did you get out of the car for?’. When Healy refused to move away, Garda Grant went to arrest him. At this stage, the court was told, the other individual interfered and hit Garda Grant on the back of the head and Garda Irwin, who had come to assist, in the face. Garda Grant lost his grip of Healy and had to use pepper spray for his own safety while Seán McFadden obstructed Garda Irwin arresting the other individual, on Linenhall Street and, after a chase, on Bridge Street as well. The court was told that McFadden was not before court as he emigrated to England shortly afterwards.
Sergeant Walsh then told the court that Garda Grant again tried to arrest David Healy, at which stage Mark Conway and Geoffrey King interfered and managed to enable Healy to escape. Feeling under threat, Garda Grant produced his baton to defend himself from the pair. The court heard that the pair overpowered the garda and knocked him to the ground and continued to punch and kick him. Garda Grant received blows to the head and body.
A local businessman and an off-duty reserve garda had to intervene to hold both King and Conway back, Sergeant Walsh said. He added that both Garda Grant and Garda Irwin had to receive treatment from a GP at Castlebar Garda Station, but that both returned to work the following day.
Myles Staunton, defending solicitor for all four accused, said that David Healy said he was hit ‘three or four times’ by Garda Grant’s baton. Sergeant Walsh replied that Garda Grant did use pepper spray when dealing with David Healy but that the baton was only produced when he was faced with King and Conway.
Mr Staunton said that both Conway and King claim that they were struck first by Garda Grant and only reacted to that. He said that there was a lot of blood from where Geoffrey King was hit on the head and that Mark Conway got involved in a ‘melee’ when he saw his friend bleeding. He added that both maintain they did not kick or punch Garda Grant on the ground.
Mr Staunton said that the four were part of a group of nine or ten Westport men who came over to Castlebar for the night.
David Healy, aged 20, had seven previous convictions the court was told. Myles Staunton said Healy is unemployed but seeking work and may look to emigrate for work, which a conviction would restrict. Judge Mary Devins dismissed the charge against him on the basis that he pay €200 to the Garda Benevolent Fund.
Seán McFadden, also aged 20, had 13 previous convictions. Mr Staunton said McFadden had ‘got the shock of his life’. Judge Devins dismissed his charge on the same condition as Healy.
Mark Conway, aged 24, had 15 previous convictions. Mr Staunton said he was a full-time father for his three-year-old child while his partner works full-time. Judge Devins said she was concerned that one of his previous convictions was for obstruction of a garda but said she felt his charges could be dealt with by community services. She remanded him on bail to Achill District Court on September 13 for community service assessment. If suitable, he will be sentenced to 100 hours in lieu of three months in prison for the assault charge.
Geoffrey King, aged 36, had six previous convictions, including a 12 month sentence for assault in 1999. Myles Staunton asked Judge Devins to take into consideration that his last conviction was in 2004. He said King was a full-time father of two children while his partner works. He said that both King and Conway hoped to gain work in Holland.
Judge Mary Devins said that at 36 years of age King should be ‘long past’ this ‘most vicious’ of attacks. She asked King to apologise publicly for his actions, which he did, and remanded him on bail for community service assessment. She said if found suitable, he will be sentenced to 220 hours in lieu of eight months in jail in total for the two charges.