A garda challenging convictions for assault causing harm to two young women in a row over a €15 fee for a lift home has insisted he needed to punch one of the women to defend himself.
Brian Hanrahan (35) is before Tipperary Circuit Appeals Court challenging two assault convictions for which he rec-eived a six-month suspended prison sentence.
Hanrahan, who survived a shooting in 2015 while on holiday in the US, received the suspended sentence from Judge Elizabeth MacGrath at Nenagh District Court last year.
The father-of-two has denied punching two young women, Emer Kelly and Aisling King, in an unprovoked attack near an isolated Tipperary cemetery in March 2016.
He had promised to pay them for a lift to his home outside Nenagh.
However, the two women said they were forced to ask him to get out of the car when he became aggressive and abusive about Nenagh and its residents.
Ms Kelly and Ms King sobbed as they recalled the incident before Judge Tom Teehan.
The women were in a car with their friend, Ellen Nyhill, when they said they were approached by Hanrahan in Nenagh town centre in the early hours of the morning. They did not know him.
He had been out but could not get a taxi and wanted a lift because it was cold and wet.
The off-duty garda said he offered to pay €20 for a lift home from the young women.
Ms King, who had only just bought the car, declined, but Hanrahan approached them twice more before they agreed to give him a lift.
When the women asked him how his night had been, Ms Kelly said Hanrahan replied that Nenagh was "full of scumbags".
Ms Kelly said he described the town as "a kip" and "a dump" while speaking aggressively.
She also said he promised that he would fight anyone.
"He said he would take on anyone in the town," Ms Nyhill said.
Ms King stopped the car and demanded that he get out.
Hanrahan did so, but did not leave the cash for the lift.
Ms Kelly said she then stepped out of the car to ask for the promised €15 and not €20 as claimed by the garda.
"I stood out of the car and asked him for the €15. I didn't want her to leave without it," she said.
Ms King and Ms Nyhill said the officer suddenly punched Ms Kelly.
Ms Kelly said she found herself lying on the ground and covering her face and head with her hands to protect herself.
Ms King said she saw clumps of her friend's hair on the ground with blood pouring from her mouth.
Ms Kelly was crying in the mistaken belief that one of her teeth had been knocked out.
Her two friends were appalled and insisted she was punched and kicked between six and eight times.
"I shouted, 'Stop, please, stop', but he punched me twice," said Ms King.
Ms Nyhill said: "Emer was on the ground and she was pumping blood - I locked myself in the car and I was trying to ring 999.
"Then I saw the flashing blue lights and the guards arrived."
Ms King and Ms Kelly rejected defence submissions that Hanrahan acted entirely in self-defence.
Both denied having either threatened or attacked him near Lisbunny Cemetery.
They also denied his claim that they had suddenly demanded €50 from him.
"He decided that he needed to hit her [Ms Kelly]. He hit her once in the face and he regrets it, but that is the situation he found himself in," defence counsel Aidan Doyle said.
Mr Doyle said his client never struck Ms King, but merely pushed her away from him by the shoulders to end the confrontation.
Hanrahan has argued that he felt threatened that night and immediately telephoned Nenagh Garda Station after the incident.
He also claimed that Ms King's car was driven slowly after him in a very threatening manner after he had agreed to get out.
However, the women said the incident ended only when Hanrahan fled after the lights of a passing car came over a nearby hill.
Michelle O'Connell, for the State, said gardai became aware of an incident in Nenagh at around 4am on March 6, 2016.
Gardai attended the scene and Hanrahan emerged from the graveyard and presented himself to officers.
The three women were found by their car in a very distressed condition. Ms Kelly subsequently required €510 of dental repair treatment.
"He kicked or punched me about six or eight times. I couldn't touch my mouth, it was so sore," she said.
Ms Kelly, who is five-feet-tall, rejected defence claims that she attacked Hanrahan, who is nearly six-feet-tall.
Hanrahan, of Newcastlewest Garda Station, Co Limerick, and Ballintotty, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, is appealing against two convictions for assault.
The appeal continues.