Defence Forces recruit accused of false imprisonment and assault

Alleged incident occurred in accommodation at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick last year

A Defence Forces recruit has pleaded not guilty at a military court to falsely imprisoning and assaulted a fellow trainee in their barracks.

Pte Philip McCarthy, of the 12th Infantry Battalion in Limerick, allegedly told Pte Jack Canty "you're either leaving in the morning or you're leaving with broken ribs" after confronting him about his performance in training

He is alleged to have held Pte Canty in a headlock, punched him in the torso and to have put his hands on his neck, causing abrasions.

The alleged incident occurred in the accommodation at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick on July 18th last year, two months into their training process.

Appearing before a summary court martial in McKee Barracks on Monday, Pte McCarthy denied all the charges. A trial before Colonel Michael Campion, the military judge, will take place in June.

Pte McCarthy faces 12 charges, including one count of false imprisonment, two counts of assault causing harm, two counts of common assault and two counts of behaving in a manner contrary to good conduct and discipline.

The remaining five counts are less serious, alternative versions of the above allegations.

According to one count, Pte McCarthy allegedly falsely imprisoned Pte Canty in the recruit accommodation at about 9.30pm before assaulting him.

Career in jeopardy

The trial will last between two and five days and will involve at least 12 witnesses. Pte McCarthy faces "life altering consequences" including termination of his career if convicted, said his defence counsel Gerard Humphreys SC, who appeared with junior counsel Tim Dixon.

Mr Humphreys applied for legal aid for his client, including for a senior counsel, due to the seriousness and multitude of the charges, the number of witnesses and recruit's level of income.

He also raised concerns about what he said was a delay in bringing charges against Pte McCarthy. During this delay, Pte McCarthy was confined to barracks and isolated from his platoon, some of whom may have been able to aid him in his defence, said counsel.

Last year a judicial review was brought before the High Court against a decision not to let Pte McCarthy graduate from his training as a result of the charges, Mr Humphreys said.

Prosecuting officer Comdt Noel Conway said no evidence was provided of an undue delay in bringing charges and accused Mr Humphreys of using "loose language".

Comdt Conway objected to legal aid for a senior counsel, saying that while the charges are serious, defendants have appeared before the Court Martial on more serious offences without the need for more than one barrister.

Col Campion granted legal aid but reserved his decision on funds for a senior counsel until a later date.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times