A MOTORIST has been sentenced to three months in prison for abusing armed gardai who were tailing a witness under the state protection.
Solicitor John Herbert told Limerick District Court that gardai had failed to give a satisfactory description of how his client, John O’Grady, looked on the day, with neither noting he had a moustache and glasses, and there had to be an element of doubt as to his identification.
Mr O’Grady, 34, of The Park, Briarfield, Castletroy, had denied dangerous driving, failing to stop and abusing gardai on November 30, 2011.
Garda Graham O’Connell told Judge Eugene O’Kelly that he was on armed protection duty on Golf Links Road at 1.40pm. The state witness had passed through a narrow section of road and when the gardai had attempted to follow, a silver Nissan Primera had come against them on the wrong side of the road, veered in front of the unmarked patrol car and screeched to a halt, narrowly avoiding a collision.
Garda O’Connell said that he had identified himself to the driver as an armed garda, to be told “F**k ye, ye f**king c**ts”. Garda O’Connell had requested the driver to stop but he had told him to “f**k off” and taken off at speed. Garda O’Connell said he had noted the vehicle registration - which had a Waterford marker - and subsequently contacted the registered owner of the car, John O’Grady. The accused had come by appointment to Roxboro Garda Station on December 12, where Garda O’Connell had identified him as the man who had abused him 12 days earlier.
Mr O’Grady had denied being on the Golf Links Road at the time or abusing gardai. “It’s not a phrase I would use. I have sworn but not in that vernacular,” Mr O’Grady had told gardai.
Mr Herbert put it to both Garda O’Connell and Garda Ger Summerly that neither had noticed “significant” details of how his client looked on November 30. Mr O’Grady always wore glasses when driving and also had a moustache of 30 days’ growth, as he was taking part in the “Movember” charity month. Mr Herbert produced a photograph taken on November 29, 2011, saying that the man described by gardai the following day did not match that description.
“The man I saw in the car that day is the man in court. That is a fact,” Garda O’Connell said.
Judge O’Kelly asked Mr O’Grady whether he was suggesting that both gardai had taken a note of his registration number “out of the blue”.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Mr O’Grady replied.
Judge O’Kelly said he was satisfied both gardai had observed a 2001 Waterford registration and that Garda O’Connell had taken a contemporaneous note of the full plate.
“The accused has impugned the honesty and integrity of two experienced members of An Garda Siochana by suggesting they were plucking it out of the air,” he said.
“I’m satisfied that he was driving with the impatience of a bully boy and didn’t recognise that it was a Garda vehicle in front of him and that he caused upset to gardai who were about the extremely important business of providing protection to a civilian witness,” Judge O’Kelly said.
Mr O’Grady was fined €500 and disqualified from driving for six months for dangerous driving and sentenced to three months in prison for abusing gardai. Leave to appeal was granted.