Former Limerick footballer pleads guilty to assaulting two gardai outside night club

Gerard Fitzgibbon


Gerard Fitzgibbon

Newcastle West  Courthouse
A FORMER Limerick footballer assaulted two gardai and had to be pepper sprayed after resisting arrest outside a Newcastle West night club, the local court has heard.

A FORMER Limerick footballer assaulted two gardai and had to be pepper sprayed after resisting arrest outside a Newcastle West night club, the local court has heard.

James Kelly, aged 21, of Castleview, Newcastle West has been placed on probation for one year after he pleaded guilty to a number of assault and public order offences on dates between March and September last year.

Newcastle West Court heard last Friday that Kelly is a “brilliant sportsman” who was responsible for “silly, stupid acts” after consuming too much alcohol.

Insp Brian Sugrue told the court that in the early hours of June 11 last year Kelly was found by gardai to be “very intoxicated” outside a night club on Church Street, Newcastle West.

Kelly was told to leave the area but refused, and as gardai attempted to arrest him he “lashed out” and had to be pepper sprayed.

Insp Sugrue said that a struggle ensued, during which Kelly “struck out with his legs” and kicked two of the gardai.

Meanwhile, the court was told that on September 15 Kelly was involved in a dispute in The Square, Newcastle West with a named male, during which Kelly struck the victim “to the right of his face”. However, no significant injury was caused and both men left the scene.

Kelly also appeared in court last Friday in connection with a public order incident in Newcastle West last March, which he previously pleaded guilty to.

Sentencing in this matter had been adjourned to allow Kelly to take part in a court-ordered alcohol education course.

Solicitor John Lynch, defending, admitted that Kelly’s offences were “quite serious”, but insisted that the accused is “a decent, good young fella”.

Mr Lynch said that Kelly’s recent behaviour can be traced back to March 2012, when an article appeared on the front page of the Limerick Leader relating to a charge of sexual assault against him, which was subsequently dropped when the alleged victim withdrew her complaint.

Mr Lynch said that after the article, Kelly “got a slagging around the town from people” and was “off work for six weeks with depression”.

Kelly also broke up with his girlfriend in the wake of the report, which had a negative impact on him, Mr Lynch added.

The judge asked why Kelly “took that out on the gardai” on the night of June 11. Mr Lynch replied that on the night, Kelly was seeking entry to the nightclub but was told it was too late. The gardai were “trying to get him out of his own harm’s way”, but Kelly “lashed out after being pepper sprayed”.

The judge pointed out that Kelly was already resisting arrest, and “wasn’t pepper sprayed for nothing”. Mr Lynch said that as the gardai were placing Kelly in the back of a patrol car, his head “accidentally banged off the roof of the car”, which caused Kelly to “resist arrest then”, prompting the use of the pepper spray.

Mr Lynch said that Kelly’s actions still “can’t be condoned in any way”. His kicking of the two gardai was “an automatic reaction to being pepper sprayed”, Mr Lynch added.

The assault on September 15, meanwhile, took place when Kelly sought to push the other male, but accidentally “made contact with his jaw line”.

Mr Lynch described Kelly as “a brilliant sportsman” who plays rugby, football and hurling. He presented to the court a character reference for Kelly from the chairman of Newcastle West GAA club.

Mr Lynch said that Kelly is “a decent, good young fella”, who was responsible for “silly, stupid acts” due to taking alcohol. Since he was last in court in March 2012, Mr Lynch said that Kelly has completed four sessions under the court’s alcohol awareness programme.

Mr Lynch said that “everything backed up in that six-month period” after the Limerick Leader article, and that Kelly is “petrified” about the thought of going to prison.

Mr Lynch said that Kelly “comes from a good family”, but “realises he’s walking a very, very thin line”.

Judge McCarthy said that in light of Kelly’s co-operation with the Probation Service and his completion of the alcohol awareness course, he had decided to place him on a probation bond, and ordered that he be of good behaviour for one year.