One-legged war veteran airport staff mistook as ‘legless’ drunk is spared conviction

Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy avoids sentence over incident at Dublin Airport January last

A one-legged war veteran arrested at Dublin Airport has been spared a sentence and an assault conviction. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A one-legged war veteran arrested at Dublin Airport has been spared a sentence and an assault conviction. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

A one-legged war veteran, who was arrested at Dublin Airport after staff thought he was “legless” drunk, has been spared a sentence and an assault conviction.

Mouftah Nezar Ellihidy, with an address at Annally Terrace, Ongar, Clonsilla, Dublin, was maimed during conflict in his homeland, Libya.

Earlier this year the 29-year-old business student pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to breach of the peace, being intoxicated in public and obstruction and assault of an authorised officer at Dublin Airport Terminal One on January 29th last.

He also admitted criminal damage inside a Garda car and to a mattress in a cell at Ballymun Garda station.

However, in April a judge had given him a chance to avoid a criminal record and a sentence after noting the “unusual circumstances” of his arrest, ordering him to pay for the damage and to make a donation to charity.

Mr Ellihidy returned to court on Thursday after paying €260 for the damage caused in the Garda station cell, and he had a receipt to show he had donated €400 to charity.

Judge Carol Anne Coolican noted that this showed he had complied with the order made by Judge John Brennan in the April hearing and she struck out the case.

Wrecked mattress

Dublin District Court had heard evidence that the student began spitting when gardaí were called and arrested him. However, things escalated after his arrest and he wrecked a mattress in a Garda station cell.

Defence solicitor Colleen Gildernew said her client was very apologetic but there were unusual circumstances to the incident.

He had lost a leg during the war to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Later he lost some fingers as a result of an Islamic State bomb blast, she said.

On the day of his arrest he had packed his crutches in his baggage.

He drank one glass of wine that reacted badly with his medication, the solicitor said, and the airport staff thought he was drunk and offered him a wheelchair, which he declined.

The situation escalated and gardaí were called.

Mr Ellihidy had a scholarship from the Libyan government to study in Ireland. His family were doctors and lived in Turkey, the court had heard.

The solicitor had said the airport staff had assumed Mr Ellihidy “was legless drunk as opposed to being actually legless”.

Mr Justice Brennan had described Mr Ellihidy’s behaviour as “purely appalling”. He added, however, that they were most unusual circumstances, in which the accused was a veteran who had suffered badly through his patriotism.

He also remarked that it seemed unusual that one glass of wine led to this behaviour and that clearly the accused cannot mix alcohol because it caused him to overreact.