Former senator said gardaí were ‘as sound as trouts’ after alleged assaults
James Heffernan rejects evidence that he had spat twice at Det Garda Jim Fitzpatrick
James Heffernan denies assault charges. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
A former Senator who is accused of assaulting gardaí and spitting at a member of the force after he was allegedly ejected from a music festival woke up in custody the following morning and thanked the officers for being “sound as trouts”, a court has heard.
James Heffernan (39), of Ballinlyna, Kilfinane, Co Limerick rejected suggestions that he assaulted gardaí after he was approached in an intoxicated state outside the Indiependence Festival in Mitchelstown on July 31st, 2016.
At a sitting of Fermoy District Court in Co Cork he said any suggestion that he was “kung fu kicking a guard in the back” was completely false. He rejected evidence that he had spat twice at Det Garda Jim Fitzpatrick. He said any suggestion by gardaí that there was a spray of saliva could have originated in him having his mouth “busted on the road.”
He told Judge Brian Sheridan that at no time was he a danger to himself in garda custody and that he was frustrated by the decision of gardaí to remove his miraculous medal from his neck. He saw the removal of that item as being “an invasion of himself.”
He denied being obstructive or abusive to gardaí.
“Most of the time the mood [in custody] was jovial and jocular. We spoke about Garda pay and conditions at the time. Things were also going on with the Commissioner [at the time]. He said the case involved “wires being crossed.”
He rejected suggestions that he gained admittance to the festival illegally, saying he was only ever outside the venue.
Mr Heffernan did acknowledge that he had a lot of drink on board. He said his alcohol consumption consisted of whiskey and a few cans.
Mr Heffernan, is charged with public order offences, two assault charges against gardaí and an assault causing harm to another garda on July 31st, 2016. He is also charged with dangerous driving at Coolnanave, Mitchelstown, Co Cork, with dangerous driving on the Limerick Road, and drink driving, at Limerick Road, Mitchelstown on August 1st, 2016. He denies all the charges.
Mr Heffernan is a former Labour Senator and a qualified primary teacher.
Security guard Keith Thompson said at around 11pm on July 31st, which was the last night of the festival, security brought Mr Heffernan to the main gate. Mr Thompson was told that “under no circumstances” should he be allowed back in. The court heard that Heffernan started walking away from the main entrance towards Mitchelstown inside the barriers.
Mr Thompson said Mr Heffernan started kicking and pushing the barriers which fell on to the main road. Two gardaí were called to assist and a third garda came up in the Garda van after reported attempts to assist Mr Heffernan failed. Gardaí said they went to arrest him for his own safety because he was heavily intoxicated.
Det Garda Gerry Murphy said they had asked a friend of Mr Heffernan’s to take him away. However, Heffernan fell against the barriers knocking them down he claimed.
“I felt he was a social danger to himself and others so I decided to arrest him. He fell to the ground pretending to be dead, and I put handcuffs on him with his hands behind his back. We had to physically lift him and drag him to the entrance.
He said as they attempted to put him in the van Heffernan kicked Sgt Ger Quinn. He also allegedly spat at now retired Det Garda Jim Fitzpatrick twice.
Garda Murphy said arresting a person was the last thing they wanted to do. When they got to the station Mr Heffernan was aggressive and unco-operative.
Garda Murphy said Mr Heffernan refused to take off his shoes. When they were being taken off he allegedly kicked Garda Trevor Sheehan in to the mouth causing it to bleed.
Det Garda Fitzpatrick said he had a HIV test following the spitting incident which came back negative.
Sgt Paul Meehan, who was the custody officer on the night of the arrest, said Mr Heffernan told him he had drunk porter, gin and whiskey. He said it took four gardaí to get him in to the cell. He said the following morning Mr Heffernan said they (the gardaí) were “sound as trouts.” He had no complaints about his treatment.
Judge Sheridan reserved his judgement on all matters until a sitting of the court on January 4th, 2019.