Garda left in fear of life after violent stand-off in Longford, court hears

Defendants jailed for five months for assaulting garda in Edgeworthstown

The judge said it is quite disturbing how two gardaí with close to two decades of service were still traumatised by the events. Photograph: Alan Betson

The judge said it is quite disturbing how two gardaí with close to two decades of service were still traumatised by the events. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A garda has told a court how he and a colleague had been left in fear of their lives after being told they would be killed during a violent stand-off with a crowd of 10 to 15 people in Co Longford last year.

Sgt David Bunn told a sitting of Longford District Court of how an incident on April 24, 2020, involving siblings Pierre Stokes (20) and Chantelle Stokes (19) of Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford, lived with him since.

Sgt Bunn said he and colleague Garda Brian Carroll had been assisting officers from Granard Garda District in the area with a series of searches in the area when they came across Ms Stokes in the company of another male who appeared to have an item concealed in his pocket.

He said when the male attempted to flee, Garda Carroll gave chase and caught up with the man, Ms Stokes tried to pull his colleague off the suspect. Moments later, the court heard a posse of men, women and young children emerged from a nearby house who hurled abuse and threatening remarks in the direction of both gardaí.

Threatened

Sgt Bunn said one of those to approach both himself and Garda Carroll was Mr Stokes. “Pierre came out and, with a number of other males, threatened both myself and Garda Carroll that he would get us, hammer us and kill us,” he said.

It was also revealed Garda Carroll had taken Ms Stokes’ phone during the course of the melee for evidential value, believing the incident had been recorded by the accused. The court heard an emergency call for assistance was made, prompting both uniformed and officers from the Garda’s Armed Support Unit (ASU) to attend the scene.

Sgt Bunn said such was the volatile nature of the situation, he ordered Garda Carroll to return Ms Stokes’ phone and advised against using pepper spray for fear it would be used against them.

Asked by Judge Seamus Hughes where he would rank the incident on a scale of one to 10 in terms of unruly public order incidents, Sgt Bunn said the episode ranked in the “eight to nine” category.

In revealing how he had been a member of the Garda for the past 17 years, Sgt Bunn said few, if any incidents, mirrored the sense of fear and trepidation he felt that day. “Had the ASU not been in the area at the time, I’m not sure what would have happened,” he said. “It has certainly left a mark on me.”

‘Hammer us’

His colleague, Garda Carroll said he recalled Ms Stokes trying to pull him off the male suspect he had been trying to arrest, adding that her brother pulled off his jacket before shouting he would “hammer us” if he didn’t release the man and return Ms Stokes’ phone. “I have worked in the cities but the likes of this has never happened to me before,” he said.

In defence, Niall Flynn BL insisted both his clients had been assaulted by gardaí on the day, claiming the evidence provided by both officers in the witness box was “substantially different” to what was contained in their statements.

The judge said the State had more than proven its case beyond any reasonable doubt, saying it was quite disturbing how two gardaí with close to two decades of service were still traumatised by the events.

This type of conduct would not be tolerated in rural Ireland, he said in sentencing both defendants to five months in jail for assaults on Garda Carroll. A concurrent three-month term was given for public order charges.