Cavan man becomes second person jailed for coughing on garda

Craig Donegan sentenced to 28 days for coughing on officer through cell door

Cavan District Court heard the garda who was coughed on was left in a state of ‘distress’  afterwards. File Photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

Cavan District Court heard the garda who was coughed on was left in a state of ‘distress’ afterwards. File Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

A 21-year-old Co Cavan man has become the second person jailed for coughing at a garda since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Craig Donegan was arrested under the public order act in Ballinagh in the early hours of last Sunday for engaging in threatening or abusive behaviour in a public place.

He was detained in a cell at a Garda station where he coughed at a garda through the cell door.

Cavan District Court heard on Thursday the garda who was coughed on was left in a state of “distress” afterwards.

Donegan apologised in court for his actions.

Judge Denis McLoughlin told Donegan he believed the cough was a “threat” to the garda and that it was a very serious offence given the current health crisis. He jailed him for 28 days, backdated to when he went into custody on Sunday.

Donegan, of Shangarry, Ballinagh, had plead guilty to threatening or abusive behaviour at Cortruce, Ballinagh and to assault of a peace officer.

His brother Jason Donegan, with the same address, was also charged in relation to breach of public order in Ballinagh on the same night. He pleaded guilty and was given a €200 fine.

It has been the policy of the Garda and courts to quickly deal with such attacks on gardaí and frontline workers in the hope of discouraging similar incidents.

Thursday’s sentence was welcomed by the Garda Representative Association (GRA). “The GRA believes the penalty imposed sends a clear and unambiguous message to anyone contemplating such reprehensible behaviour against any frontline worker at a time when all our frontline emergency workers are giving so much of themselves to protect the community,” GRA spokesman for Cavan Monaghan Division James Morrisroe stated.

“This type of behaviour cannot be tolerated given the unprecedented risks frontline workers are exposed to every time they put on their uniform and go to work.”

It is the second time someone has been jailed for coughing on gardaí during the crisis.

Last Thursday, a Sligo woman was also jailed for 28 days for coughing in the face of a garda.

Rachel Conway of Rusheen Ard, Caltragh, Sligo attacked a garda responding to reports of her and others drinking in Carrick-on-Shannon.

When the garda approached the group Conway told her to “stay away 2m” and then started talking about Covid-19, the court heard.

When the garda asked for names and addresses, all in the group but Conway provided details. The rest of the group agreed to leave but Conway approached Garda Carter and coughed directly in her face twice.

The judge said “a message must be sent out that” that gardaí and the public must be protected and that alcohol was not a mitigating but an aggravating factor “given the current advice of the authorities.”