herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Garda attacked drunk man wearing Santa hat

Garda Donal O'Neill
Garda Donal O'Neill

A GARDA has been sentenced to 200 hours' community service for attacking a drunk man in a Santa hat during an arrest in Dublin city centre.

Donal O'Neill (31, right), who has been based at Pearse Street Garda station since 2006, had denied assaulting Tim Dowling (29), at Pearse Street in the early hours of December 16, 2012 but was found guilty following his trial in June.

The case at Dublin District Court had been adjourned until yesterday for a pre-sentence probation report to be obtained.

Judge Ann Ryan had viewed CCTV footage of the 12-second incident showing Mr Dowling, who was wearing a Santa hat, being shouldered and brought to the ground and kicked. The prosecution argued excessive force had been used by Gda O'Neill (pictured) when he dealt with Mr Dowling.

Defence counsel Karl Moran pleaded with the judge yesterday not to record a criminal conviction against the father-of-two. He asked the court to note the positive probation report, Gda O'Neill's charity work and evidence from his Superintendent Joseph Gannon, who said O'Neill performed his duty in a competent manner.

Mr Moran also told the court Gda O'Neill accepts the court's finding, and he asked the judge to note he was at a low risk of re-offending and has a family to support.

Judge Ryan said O'Neill, as a garda, had a duty of care to the public which was paramount.

She held that it wouldn't be appropriate to leave him without a conviction but she said she would not impose a jail sentence, and instead ordered him to carry out 200 hours of community service.

During the trial in June, Gda O'Neill, who had an unblemished career record, said he felt Mr Dowling represented a threat to him and his colleagues.

He claimed Mr Dowling would not take his hands out of his pockets and he believed he used reasonable force to effectively arrest him.

Prosecution counsel argued excessive force was used on a clearly inebriated person who was staggering, wearing a Santa hat, and did not know where he was. Mr Dowling did not suffer injuries but complained of soreness afterward.

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