Garda pleads guilty to assault of woman during arrest in Waterford

Judge said he would not treat garda any differently to other defendants who do not hold prior convictions

A Garda has pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman, while arresting her in Waterford city two years ago.

Garda Keith Ryan of Waterford Garda station was charged with a single count of assault against Martina McGrath (29) at Waterford District Court on Monday.

The case had been referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) following a complaint made by Martina McGrath.

The garda may avoid a conviction as Judge John Cheatle said he was taking into account a number of factors, including his remorse for the incident.


Garda Ryan, who has been a member of the force for 12 years, has been suspended from the force since the incident in October 2018.

The charge was downgraded today from the more serious section 3 assault causing harm to a charge of section 2 assault, under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.

The 36-year-old was part of a group of gardaí responding to an incident at an apartment block in Waterford city.

State solicitor Frank Hutchinson, prosecuting on behalf of the DPP, told the court that the incident took place around 8am on Sunday, October 14th, 2018 outside apartments on Anne Street in Waterford. Garda Keith Ryan and two female Garda colleagues had been responding after they received a complaint from the occupant of Penrose Court where Ms McGrath had been visiting.

The tenant had said that Ms McGrath would not leave and she became “volatile” when gardaí arrived, began to “fight back” and refused to leave the apartment complex, defence barrister Eoin Lawlor said.

The investigating officer with Gsoc, John Clerkin, confirmed the details as presented by Garda Ryan’s legal team.

Ms McGrath cursed at Garda Ryan, saying, “F**k you”, and spat at him, Mr Lawlor said. He put Ms McGrath’s head against the ground and then put her against the patrol car, while arresting her. However, the other gardaí reported that they did not see Ms McGrath spit, instead seeing her take an “abrupt step” towards him.

Mr Lawlor said the placing of Ms McGrath’s head against the ground was a tactic to avoid her spitting at Garda Ryan, and that, after she was arrested and placed into the patrol car, she tried to kick Garda Ryan in the head while he was driving the car.

The court heard that Ms McGrath has not worked since the incident, however, Mr Lawlor said that as the woman is currently in custody for another offence, she is not able to seek work.

In her victim impact statement, Martina McGrath, who spoke to the court via video link as she is in custody, said she was still suffering from the effects of the incident, is afraid of gardaí and doesn’t feel she can go to them for help.

Mr Lawlor said his client knew he “fell below the standard set by An Garda Síochána” and apologised to the court and said Garda Ryan feels “profound regret” over the incident.

Mr Lawlor said his client accepts he had used “excessive force” in the course of the arrest.

Garda Ryan has no previous convictions and had never been the subject of disciplinary hearing before. His barrister appealed to Judge Cheatle to not convict the garda and to give him another chance, which the judge accepted.

Taking into account Garda Ryan’s remorse and his early plea, the judge said he would not treat the garda any differently to other defendants who don’t hold prior convictions. “I see no reason to why Garda Ryan will not be afforded the same benefit,” Judge Cheatle added.

He put the case back so that a probation report on Garda Ryan could be carried out, with the case to return on May 17th, 2021.