The imposition of a three-month sentence on a then-serving garda who choked his ex-partner and broke her fingers will discourage other victims from coming forward, the National Women’s Council of Ireland has said.
The man, who is aged in his 30s, was “off his face” on cocaine when he illegally entered the woman’s home in 2018. She and her children returned home to find him in the sittingroom.
Dublin District Court heard he "pushed her against a door with his elbow to her face and his hand on her neck".
The judge heard she was choked by the man and thought “he was going to kill her”.
The court was told her children ran into the room and started striking him with their toy Power Rangers swords.
She suffered "massive" bruising to her face and had two broken fingers. Judge John Hughes imposed a six-month sentence with the final three months suspended.
The accused, who left the Garda after the incident, was also ordered to pay €1,000 to his former partner and have no contact with her unless he has a court order.
Following a request from the prosecution, the judge ordered that the former garda cannot be identified because the victim’s children were witnesses.
The sentence has attracted widespread criticism, according to Orla O’Connor, the director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
“People have been in touch all day saying they feel the sentence was appalling given the violence involved.
“It signals sentencing is going in the opposition direction of where we expect things to be going, given that we have better legislation now on things like coercive control.
“We think we have a better understanding of domestic violence and then you see a sentence like this.”
Ms O’Connor said domestic violence can be extremely difficult for victims to report. “So when sentences like that come out, it’s really negative in terms of encouraging and supporting people to report domestic violence.
“It sends absolutely the wrong message in terms of how seriously the courts are taking this.”
In sentencing the accused, Judge Hughes said the fact that he was a serving garda was an aggravating factor.
“If it was an aggravating factor, and this is the sentence he got, it just beggars belief, to be honest,” Ms O’Connor said.
“He seems to have got a lower sentence than the norm. It does raise serious questions about that judge’s understanding of the impact of domestic violence and the seriousness of it.”
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), which investigated the case, has appealed for other victims of domestic violence at the hands of a garda to come forward.
Last week The Irish Times reported 21 gardaí have so far come forward to management to declare a barring or related order was taken out against them in the near three years since the start of 2019.
Of the 21 serving members who have declared they were subject of an order, nine are under investigation for alleged breach of the orders. And of the nine under investigation, five cases involved an alleged coercive control component.
Last week Garda Commissioner Drew Harris announced he was assembling a small team of investigators to make checks on live investigations into Garda members accused of domestic or sexual violence. He said that in the wake of the Sarah Everard murder in the UK by former Met police officer Wayne Couzens, the Garda force wanted to be sure any investigations into serving members were being conducted quickly and thoroughly.