Mum pepper-sprayed by gardai after car pulled over gets €12k damages
A 32-year-old Dublin mother, who was pepper-sprayed by gardai when they seized her car and arrested her, has been awarded damages in the Circuit Civil Court for defamation and assault.
Judge James O'Donohue said that while he had no doubt Sharon Joyce had been very abusive and had attempted to hit Garda Dylan Brady and Garda Barry Cashman, "the use of pepper spray should only be used as a very last resort".
Judge O'Donohue yesterday said in a reserved judgment that the two gardai had been entitled to seize Ms Joyce's car as it has had no motor tax and NCT for a long time and was not registered in her name.
The judge said An Garda Siochana had a very hard job to do and in this case had found themselves in a difficult situation as Ms Joyce had been, at the very least, highly abusive and had tried to resist arrest. It had nevertheless been excessive to have used pepper spray.
Judge O'Donohue had heard that on a Sunday morning in January last year Joyce, of Deerpark Avenue, Tallaght, Dublin, had been driving her brother, Christopher Joyce (17), to a football match when she was pulled over by the Garda Traffic Corps.
Barrister Conor Kearney for Ms Joyce, said that following a vehicle registration search, the gardai informed her the car did not belong to her and that they were seizing it. The motor tax and NCT had expired several months earlier.
Joyce told Mr Kearney she had tried to explain to them that she had recently bought the car from her brother, Raymond Joyce, and that it was still registered in his name but was in the process of being transferred. She had been waiting for the logbook to register the car in her own name.
She had denied having been abusive and claimed Garda Brady had threatened he would use his incapacitating spray on her, and had later said "spray, spray, spray" before spraying the substance in her face.
She claimed she had then been dragged out of her car and handcuffed, before being placed in a garda car and taken to Rathfarnham Garda Station. Following release she had attended Tallaght Hospital A&E as she was suffering from panic attacks, hyper ventilation and an itchy rash.
Judge O'Donohue awarded her €12,000 damages against the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice. He said Ms Joyce had not previously come to police attention and had an otherwise exemplary character.