Charges in garda pepper spray case dropped

Monday 06 January 2014 19.01
Cork District Court was informed of the instructions from the DPP to withdraw the charges
Cork District Court was informed of the instructions from the DPP to withdraw the charges

The Director of Public Prosecutions has directed the withdrawal of charges against two gardaí accused of pepper spraying a teenager.

Garda Brendan Dowling, 46, and Garda Fiona Sheehan, 27, had appeared before Cork District Court, charged with assault causing harm to a 16-year-old boy on Cook Street in May 2012.

Both had pleaded not guilty.

When told by the State solicitor for Cork city, Frank Nyham, of the instruction from the DPP, Judge Olann Kelleher said that on the evidence he had heard to date, there was nothing to suggest that either officer had used their pepper spray in any manner other than in accordance with the law.

Judge Kelleher said no one should underestimate the difficult job facing gardaí in patrolling the streets.

Speaking afterwards, and stressing he was speaking in a civilian capacity, Mr Dowling said the decision to bring a charge against him and his colleague over the use of pepper spray had serious implications for every member of the gardaí trying to do their job.

He said he believed the case was sending out the wrong message.

If they had been convicted for using equipment issued to them to help incapacitate someone who was at risk to themselves and to others, he said it would have had serious implications for every garda.

Earlier, when the case first opened, Mr Nyham told Cork District Court that the prosecution would allege that Ms Sheehan had pepper sprayed the teenager on Mr Dowling's instructions after the teenager had been handcuffed following pursuit through Cork city centre.

The teenager told the court that after being handcuffed and put in a patrol car by the gardaí, he was later pepper sprayed while lying on his back on the ground outside the car, resulting in stinging in his eyes.

Cross examined by Ms Sheehan's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, the teenager admitted that he had been involved in a violent incident earlier on Paul Street and had kicked in a glass panel.

Initially, he disagreed with Mr Buttimer that he was a violent person, but later accepted that he had 22 previous convictions, including eight for public order or criminal damage offences and two for common assault.

He agreed he could be aggressive.

He also agreed he had initially resisted arrest and had headbutted the window of the garda car three or four times when he was first placed in it.

Shortly after lunch, Mr Nyham informed the court of the instructions from the DPP to withdraw the charges.