A 30-year-old man who a judge noted had the “physique of a body builder” subjected a garda to a prolonged assault during which he bit the officer, repeatedly thumped and elbowed him and spat all over his body, Sligo Circuit Court heard on Wednesday.
Ciaran Flood (30) of The Old School House, Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath, admitted assaulting Gda Ray Wims causing him harm at The Dunes, Enniscrone on May 15th, 2021.
He also pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage to a garden gate on that day.
Gda Wims told the court that when he responded to a call about a burglary in the Castlecove area of Enniscrone on May 15th, 2021, he knew that Garda backup was 50 minutes away. He was initially cautious about engaging with the defendant but he formed the opinion that there was “an immediate risk to life – being the two small kids in the house” that the accused had broken into.
Judge Keenan Johnson heard that when Gda Wims encountered the defendant, the latter was shouting obscenities and appeared to be high or intoxicated, his pupils were dilated and he was in a state of paranoia. The garda observed him while keeping in constant touch with the Garda control dispatcher. But when a woman exited a house shouting that a man had broken into her home, was “going crazy”, and was in the livingroom where her two young children were, he knew there was “an immediate risk to life”.
In his victim impact statement Garda Wims said he had never in his 26-year career experienced a person “in such a violent rage” and he was worried that if Flood had overpowered him he could have got an implement or a knife from the kitchen and inflicted “fatal damage” to him or one of the occupants of the house.
Judge Johnson, who was told that Flood had sustained a serious brain injury in a road traffic accident in Britain in 2018, was shown photographs documenting the injuries sustained by Gda Wims including five bite marks on his thumb where the skin was broken.
His uniform was also covered in saliva as a result of the spitting, the court heard. As a result of thumps to his head, back, arms and hips, Gda Wims who was out of work for 11 months, underwent a prolonged recovery programme and uses exercises prescribed by a physiotherapist and a spine consultant to manage pain.
He had to get a tetanus shot and do blood tests for HIV and hepatitis as a result of the bites.
Judge Johnson praised Gda Wims for his attitude towards the defendant after the garda had described the incident as “an act of lunacy” that he believed was not characteristic of the accused when he was sober. He said he wanted it noted that he bore no ill feeling towards Flood and “I wish him well into the future”.
The court heard that the accused, who has two other assault charges against different Gardai pending, had been remorseful and apologetic when told by investigating Gardai what he had done. He said his short-term memory “even without alcohol” was not good. When told that two children aged nine and 10 had witnessed the assault he said. “I am so sorry, they should not have witnessed that”.
Sentencing the accused to two years and six months, the Judge said he was not going to finalise matters and would instead adjourn the case for review on October 3rd on certain conditions.
He warned that if Flood takes a drink between now and October 3rd he would impose the 2½year sentence.
“The keys of prison are in your own hands,” he told the defendant. He said he would also require €10,000 to be paid into the Garda Benevolent Fund.
Commenting after the case James Morrisroe, interim deputy general secretary of the GRA, said it highlighted how vulnerable members working out of rural Garda stations were “when backup is 50 minutes away”.