Being garda ‘more dangerous’ than serving for UN in Bosnia

Louis Brown disappointed with protection offered officers after being attacked on duty

The officer was speaking at the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) in Salthill, Galway, where assaults on Garda members are being highlighted. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The officer was speaking at the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) in Salthill, Galway, where assaults on Garda members are being highlighted. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Policing the streets of Ireland proved more dangerous than a United Nations tour of duty to Bosnia, a member of the Garda has said.

Garda Louis Brown, of the traffic unit in Donegal, said when he went away with the UN in 2002 his family were nervous because of the dangers involved.

However, while he encountered no problems abroad, he was badly beaten in two assaults within 16 months of returning to the State.

Garda Brown said when he was attacked on duty in Ireland his experience of the criminal justice system was less than satisfactory. At its conclusion his family was unsure it had been worth his pursuing the case.

“I served with the United Nations in 2002 and within months of coming home I was assaulted twice,” he said. “My family were terrified when I went to the UN; they didn’t think I would be assaulted in Ireland.

“To go through the courts system as a guard and to see how it worked; I would say people aren’t give proper protection by the courts system.

“I was headbutted and got my nose broken. I was also bruised to the head. Three people assaulted me,” he said, adding he also needed 11 stitches to wounds on his hands following one of the assaults.

“One person eventually went to court. And the result was a small fine. My family had to witness this and bear through it. They thought it was a very poor return.”

While he was left with some satisfaction – a conviction resulted from the attack on him – he did not feel the system offered much protection to Garda members.

Garda Brown accepted policing was a difficult and sometimes physical job. But he believed the State had a duty to offer members more protection when assaults occurred.

He was speaking at the annual conference of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) in Salthill, Galway, where assaults on Garda members are being highlighted.

The association, which represents 10,200 rank-and-file gardaí in a 13,000-strong force, wants a more consistent approach to prosecuting those who attack gardaí. It says that at present Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, did not even properly record attacks.

Photograph

Garda Ger Comerford from Kilkenny showed a photograph to the conference of an injury sustained by one of his colleagues in an assault. The injured garda, who was not named, required 22 staples for a wound to his elbow and was forced out of work for five months. He suffered a shattered cartilage in the incident when he was pulled to the ground by a suspect trying to evade arrest in 2013.

The suspect was charged and convicted of assault causing harm. But the GRA said a much more consistent approach to pursuing such prosecutions was needed.

Garda Bernie Connell, from Crumlin station and representing the Dublin Metropolitan Region South division, said she and her colleagues were looking for more public order, or riot squad, resources in order that disorder can be dealt with more quickly. If the resources being called for were supplied, she believed flashpoint incidents or high-risk call-outs could be dealt with more safely, reducing the risk of injury to gardaí.

“We want public order vans to be available in every division across the country at weekends,” she said.

Currently when serious public disorder arises, gardaí are deployed on public order duty and some of them are required to travel to a central location to collect a van. This means the response times are far too slow.

“That can take up to two hours and in the meantime our members are put at risk. We would feel there is no need for that. If the vans were made available to every division they could be out and about. When people see the public order van out there it can act as a deterrent.”