TWO gardai were assaulted and injured as they attempted to break up a fight on the street in Newcastle West, the local court has heard.
John Liston, aged 23, of Dunaman, Croom and Michael Fitzgerald, aged 24, of Caherass, Croom have both pleaded guilty to assaulting a garda during the incident in the Market Yard, Newcastle West on April 9, 2012. Liston also pleaded guilty to being threatening and abusive in public on the same date.
Newcastle West court heard last Friday that during a late night scuffle Liston grabbed Garda Helena Carey “by the legs and threw her”, while Fitzgerald ran at Garda Pat Holland and “knocked him to the ground”.
Insp Dermot O’Connor told the court both gardai were on patrol at 3am when they “observed a number of youths fighting” in the street.
As they attempted to break up the fight Liston, who was lying on the ground, “grabbed Garda Carey by the legs and threw her”, causing her to land on her back and hit her head.
Fitzgerald was sitting on a bus nearby as the fight was taking place, and when seeing that Liston, his friend, was involved he got off and “ran at Garda Holland and knocked him to the ground”. Garda Holland suffered grazing to his knuckles and knees as a result.
The court heard that Liston was “quite aggressive” towards gardai and had to be pepper sprayed. Both defendants were subsequently arrested. Neither of the pair have any previous convictions.
Solicitor Enda O’Connor, representing Liston, said that his client had been “accosted by a number of youths and suffered a number of blows to the head” during the fight, but “had no intention of assaulting Garda Carey”.
Mr O’Connor said that as he was lying on the ground, Liston “saw a pair of shoes and swung out as he feared for his own safety”, and only realised it was Garda Carey after assaulting her.
The court heard that Liston is an apprentice electrician with a State body who is likely to lose his employment if he receives a conviction. Mr O’Connor asked that his client be placed on a probation bond for one year in order to monitor his behaviour.
However Insp O’Connor pointed out that Liston “certainly wasn’t cooperative on the night. He was drunk, and he was aggressive”.
Judge Mary Larkin referred Liston to the probation services, stating “I will consider what they say about him”. However she warned that “I want him to be fully aware of what his lack of control and drinking brings on his head”.
Solicitor Laura Casey, acting on behalf of Fitzgerald, said that her client was “on a bus that would have taken him home”, but became “very concerned” when he saw Liston “being attacked by three or four people”.
Ms Casey said that in his “enthusiasm” to intervene Fitzgerald accidentally knocked down Garda Holland. The court heard that Fitzgerald “wasn’t in any way aggressive” and apologised to the garda that night. “It was very much an accidental situation”, she said.
Ms Casey said that Fitzgerald is also an electrician working for the State and faces similar difficulties to Liston if he receives a conviction. Ms Casey said that Fitzgerald was willing to make a €500 contribution to the Garda benevolent fund in order to avoid a criminal record.
“He is not a troublesome young man. He has a good job, and works hard at it”, Ms Casey said. “He wasn’t looking for trouble, he was trying to help his friend”.
Judge Larkin said that she is wary of a public perception that the court could “accept money for the purposes of buying off a conviction”, but accepted that Fitzgerald was “young and foolish”. She accepted the €500 donation and made no order in Fitzgerald’s assault case.
She adjourned the assault and public order case against Liston until December 13 for completion of a probation report.