Man receives apology from Garda and admission that they held ‘the wrong person’

Thomas Walsh of Abbeylara, Co Longford, leaving court yesterday following a High Court hearing in which the Garda apologised for stopping and arresting him in 2007. Photograph: Collins-Courts

Gardaí have apologised before the High Court to a man who sued over alleged assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Gardaí have also acknowledged they had got the "wrong person" in an incident in which three patrol cars were allegedly involved in stopping and arresting Thomas Walsh while he was driving his motorbike.

Mr Walsh is a cousin of the late John Carthy (right), who died after being shot in controversial circumstances by Garda members of the Emergency Response Unit during a siege at his home at Abbeylara, Co Longford, in April 2000.

As part of his case against the Minister for Justice, Garda Commissioner and State alleging assault and false imprisonment over an incident in 2007, Mr Walsh claimed his own experience opened up “old wounds and anger” for him over his cousin’s death.


Mr Walsh (42), Toneymore, Abbeylara, Co Longford, was in court yesterday when Mr Justice Eamon de Valera was told his action had settled on terms including a statement being read in court by Conor Maguire SC, for the defendants. It said: “It is acknowledged by gardaí that, when Mr Walsh was arrested, he was the wrong person. The gardaí regret the distress caused.”

Mr Walsh is also to receive a sum in compensation, plus his legal costs, under the settlement.

In his action, Mr Walsh claimed damages arising from an incident on February 18th, 2007, when, he alleged, a patrol car suddenly forced him to stop while he was lawfully driving his motorbike at the roundabout at the Delvin bypass in Co Westmeath. It was claimed two other patrol cars arrived at the scene and he was surrounded by gardaí.

It was alleged his arm was grabbed, he was thrown across the bonnet of a patrol car, pulled back into an upright position and his motorbike helmet was grabbed with force. He claimed he suffered injuries to his ears, neck and back, that the gardaí behaved in an aggressive and threatening manner, shouted abuse at him and he was thrown into a patrol car with force.

It was claimed that he was accused of doing “wheelies” at 170mph, endangering life and running people off the road, he was addressed with obscene language, including being described as “a lunatic” and a “stupid little c...”, and that one garda threatened he would assault him in the Garda station.

While in Mullingar Garda station, Mr Walsh alleged he was told all the gardaí were going to testify it was Mr Walsh’s bike and registration number they were pursuing and Mr Walsh was going to jail. He was in fear for his life and in constant fear of a physical assault while in the station, he alleged.

Mr Walsh was later charged with dangerous driving at Delvin Road, Mullingar. However the case was adjourned a number of times until the charges were withdrawn in November 2007 when it was acknowledged by the Director of Public Prosecutions and gardaí that, when Mr Walsh was arrested, he was the "wrong person", "incorrectly arrested" and that was "regretted".

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times