Victim testimonies from two Gardai involved in the arrest of a Boyle farm contractor in 2020 said some subsequent media coverage caused them great concern.
Onor O’Neill (26), Leam Boyle was found guilty of assaulting, obstructing and using threats and abusive behavior a Gardai after fighting with two Gardai when they pulled him out of his tractor in town on April 14 pulled. 2020, after a two and a half hour hearing in Carrick District Court in February.
The defendant denied the assault charges against Garda Martin McTiernan and the other two charges arising out of an incident on April 14, 2020 outside Boyle Garda train station. He pleaded guilty to not displaying tax on the vehicle.
The court was later told that the incident had been investigated by the Garda Ombudsman following a complaint from the accused – but the complaint was not upheld.
After the verdict, the accused was interviewed by the Sunday World newspaper and his comments in that newspaper caused great concern to the two Gardai, the court heard.
In that interview, although he was found guilty, he said he was innocent and that he had won the case.
He told the newspaper that the Gardai “purely taunted” him by stopping for an ice cream cone after his arrest.
Boyle Sergeant Maura McGarry told the court that Garda McTiernan did not want his victim impact testimony to be read in open court.
She added that Garda Guill Carvalho was willing to have his victim statement read in court.
Sergeant McGarry read the statement which said the Garda had been verbally and racially abused by the defendant in an incident in Boyle on April 14, 2020.
It added that his quality as a Garda has been questioned because of his looks and nationality.
The statement went on to say that he was unprepared for such allegations.
There was a WhatsApp message reported at the scene describing his background as some sort of “alien race” which hit him hard.
He said it was upsetting that someone was “spreading lies about me and my co-workers.”
The statement added that he had received a letter from the Garda Ombudsman saying he was under investigation and he didn’t know why.
His actions had been morally correct and it was very stressful.
“I did nothing wrong and was deleted”.
The statement added that he thought this was the end, but he was wrong.
It added that his name appeared in a national newspaper with false claims.
The verbal abuse he received caused much embarrassment and made him question his career as a Garda, and he said he was close to leaving because of the false allegations.
Sergeant McGarry said it couldn’t be overstated how much stress reporting had caused for “two hard-working members”.
Defense attorney Gerry McGovern said his client was a hard-working man who was well-respected in the farming community.
“This incident should never have happened and he regrets it, and he told the parole service that he accepts that he shouldn’t have acted the way he did.
“For two hours he fully cooperated with Gardai. The young man was having a stressful time due to Covid, lack of work and his house had burned down
“He has never had any trouble with Gardai and he has fully cooperated with the probation service. The parole report found he had a low risk of reoffending.
“He has had no problems with alcohol or drugs and he has been supported by his partner who was on trial and they are expecting their first child shortly.
“The defendant was determined to put things right.
“The situation got out of hand in many ways and members of the Gardai and the accused got publicity that nobody needed,” he said.
Mr McGovern addressed the judge and said:
“You have made your report and it is accepted”.
Mr McGovern said the accused had been taken advantage of by a national publication looking for sensationalism.
The lawyer said they called him and he didn’t know where they got his number from and they were given photos of him standing by his tractor and even a photo of him at a wedding.
The article had caused both Gardai great concern and the paper had also taken some verbatim quotes from The Sligo Champion.”
The national newspaper shouldn’t have printed anything the way it did.
The accused had also received some unfavorable comments as a result of this particular article and his family and the Gardai concerned found it very difficult upon seeing the article.
The defendant was not fully aware of this when he took the call from the newspaper and it was beyond his control.
He told this newspaper that in his head he thought he had won.
“We cannot stop the media,” added Mr McGovern.
Mr McGovern said he wanted to hear a number of charges with his client and insisted he did not attack Garda McTiernan.
Mr McGovern said this young man was wrong, and thoroughly wrong.
“But he has to live with that for the rest of his life.”
Judge Sandra Murphy said she read the medical report on Garda McTiernan and it was consistent with him being hit.
Mr McGovern agreed that “there was contact”.
Sergeant Maura McGarry said she couldn’t stress enough the stress put on two hard-working members.
Judge Murphy said she was “appalling” at what was done to Garda Carvalho.
She added that only “diversity” could strengthen Garda Force.
She said she was very concerned that national newspapers were coming out and making the situation worse.
The judge added that Garda McTiernan’s victim impact statement came very strongly from a “very experienced member of the Gardai”. She added that what happened to Garda McTiernan was appalling.
The judge said the defendant had a low risk of recidivism.
But he showed no further insight into how it affected the Gardai, and he still had no insight.
“That worries me a lot, and every step he’s taken has made this situation worse.”
Judge Murphy also found that the defendant had a criminal record for assault and had a community service order in lieu of ten months in prison for unauthorized possession of a firearm.
The judge said she accepts that the defendant is working and has the support of his partner, but he lacks insight and is a man who “escalates” in certain situations, and the judge said she fears he “will bounce back.” got into a similar situation.”
Mr McGovern asked for the case to be put on hold to see how the accused fared and the couple were expecting their first baby shortly.
“It shouldn’t have happened, but it happened and we can’t turn back the clock.”
Mr McGovern said when his client got the call from the Sunday World he should have said he would not comment.
Judge Murphy said the defendant instead said:
“In my mind I know I lost the case, but in my own mind I won the case, you almost have to be in court to see how it went.”
Judge Murphy said this was a matter which the Gardai had every right to take very seriously.
The judge said she wanted to think about the case and the impact it would have on the Gardai, and she would consider the victims’ testimonies.
The case was postponed to May 17 for closure.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/courts/case-coverage-in-sunday-world-caused-two-gardai-great-distress-court-told-41595272.html Case reporting in Sunday World caused two Gardaí “great distress”, the court said