Dublin man sues after armed gardaí raid his home by mistake

Francis Foster claims was traumatised after members of ERU forced their way into his flat

Francis Foster  leaving the Four Courts  after the opening day of his High Court action for damages. Photograph: Courts Collins

Francis Foster leaving the Four Courts after the opening day of his High Court action for damages. Photograph: Courts Collins

 

A Dublin man has sued the Garda Commissioner and State for damages over alleged assault and false imprisonment after the Garda Emergency Response Unit mistakenly raided his flat.

Francis Foster (58) claims he has been traumatised after members of the ERU forced their way into his flat at Nicholas Street, near Christchurch Cathedral, at about 6.30am on July 19th, 2013.

Mr Foster claims he was walking from the bathroom to the bedroom of his council flat when the front door was smashed in by three men dressed in full riot gear. He claims the men started shouting at him and one pushed him to his bed and physically restrained him while the others pointed guns at his head and neck.

It was only when the intruders asked Mr Foster his name did he realise they were gardaí, he said.

After identifying himself, they realised they got the wrong person and were at the wrong address, he said. The three officers departed his home leaving the front door badly damaged.

The court heard a detective sergeant remained in the sitting room of the flat and spoke to Mr Foster.

Arising out of the incident, Mr Foster has sued the Garda Commissioner, Ireland and the Attorney General for damages, including exemplary damages, for alleged assault, false imprisonment and violation of his dwelling in breach of Article 40.5 of the Constitution.

He claims he suffered trauma and shock as a result of what happened. He also claims he is on medication as he is unable to sleep properly and suffers from panic attacks, flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Due to the gravity of his anxiety he sometimes places a sofa against his door at night, he claims.

The defendants deny the claims. They accept they entered the wrong dwelling as part of an investigation into a serious crime. It is denied the officers pointed guns at Mr Foster, that he was pushed to the bed or held hostage in the incident.

Opening the case, Jim O’Callaghan SC, for Mr Foster, said the Garda ERU made an “astonishingly reckless error”. They intended to search another flat in the vicinity.

Counsel said Mr Foster had never been in trouble with the Garda.

Mr Foster, a divorced father of two, told the court he felt shocked, numb and fearful when the gardaí entered his flat shouting at him. Once they realised they were in the wrong place, they left, he said.

He said the incident lasted about two to two-and-a-half minutes.

Afterwards, he spoke to Det Sgt Paul Murphy from Kilmainham Garda station in his sitting room. The officer offered to make him a cup of tea and said it would be arranged for somebody to fix the door.

Mr Foster said he felt physically sick afterwards and spent the next few nights away from the flat. He later went to see his GP and was referred to a psychologist.

He said he was delighted to get the flat in Nicholas Street after what had been a difficult period of his life but now just wanted to move elsewhere and start afresh.

He never received an official apology from the Garda Commissioner or the State parties, he said.

Under cross-examination, he rejected a suggestion by Mr Rogers guns were never pointed at him and he was not pushed onto the bed. He accepted Det Sgt Murphy may have said sorry to him over what happened.

The case continues before Mr Justice John Hedigan and a jury.