Top court to hear arguments on consent to being assaulted

Case could have implications for sporting events such as mixed martial arts

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on the question of whether someone can consent to being assaulted in a case which could have implications for sporting and other activities.

The court will be asked to consider if it is an offence to assault a person, causing them injury, in circumstances where the injured party requested and agreed to the assault.

The case of Director of Public Prosecution and Gerard Browne has its origins in the 2014 conviction of former garda Stephen Cooper, who was jailed for three years for a string of offences including dealing cocaine, insurance fraud and attempting to frame someone for car theft.

Shortly after beginning his sentence at Midlands Prison, Cooper was being escorted to a gym when he was attacked and beaten by another prisoner, Gerard Browne, using a sock containing a mug.

Browne stood trial for assault causing harm in October 2015. The court heard that Browne alleged Cooper had asked to be attacked so the ex-garda could get a transfer to an open prison. In return Browne would receive €1,000 as well as sensitive documents and information.

Three years

The judge refused to allow this defence to go to the jury, and Browne was convicted and sentenced to another three years in prison. An appeal was launched but this also failed, with the judges ruling that a person cannot consent to assault in such circumstances.

The DPP has not objected to the case being heard as it wants clarity on the law.

Lawyers with knowledge of the case said it will serve as a test case for future prosecutions where the issue of consensual assault arises . These include prosecutions arising from violent sporting events such as mixed martial arts or from consensual sadomasochistic activities.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times