Generous garda saves man from longer sentence

A man who fought with four gardaí and had to be restrained with pepper spray after being stopped in an uninsured car was told he would have got “a much longer sentence” had his arresting garda not spoken up for him in court.

Raymond O’Neill (28 ) with an address at Farrell’s Terrace, Granard, Co Longford but previously of Meadowbrook, Athlone, was sentenced “without much further ado” to two months in jail, and disqualified from driving for two years in the District Court this week (March 12 ).

“Mr O’Neill, if it wasn’t for that garda speaking up for you - and he did his damnedest for you - you would’ve got a much longer sentence,” said Judge Seamus Hughes to the defendant.

Earlier the court heard evidence from Garda Dave Turner how he had been in a patrol car that had been notified about a car driving erratically at around 5.25pm on January 16.

He explained that he and his colleagues encountered the car at The Crescent in Athlone where he recognised the driver as Raymond O’Neill.

When he approached the car O’Neill “kept trying to flee”.

“He wouldn’t look at me, and he tried to lock the door. I reached in and took the keys. When I did he got extremely violent. He got out and grabbed both my hands by the wrists,” said Garda Turner.

“Two other gardaí came to assist, but he remained violent, and we had to use pepper spray. He then calmed down and he apologised after the fact,” said Garda Turner.

Inspector Nicholas Farrell outlined O’Neill’s 50 previous convictions for public order offences, assault causing harm, criminal damage, burglary, possession of weapons, possession of explosives, and no insurance.

“That sorry description makes it very clear for me,” said the judge.

“He would be well known to you over the years, but I can say that in my previous dealings with him he never behaved like that, and he hasn’t come to Garda attention since,” said O’Neill’s solicitor, Mr Mark Cooney.

“Was that on the explosive charge? Or the assaults, the public order, the no insurance, the theft, or what? On which previous occasion did he not behave like that?” demanded the judge.

“You had to employ pepper spray because of the fear of imminent assault. If you hadn’t, it’d very likely you’d be putting in for a massive claim from the State,” said the judge to Garda Turner.

“And he hasn’t come to Garda attention? What? Since January? That’s just a hop and a step. He has learned nothing,” said the incredulous judge to Mr Cooney.

“It’s as simple as this. The general public would’ve witnessed this - a car trying to escape from a line of traffic, they would’ve observed this man fighting with a garda who had to call for assistance. It’d be [easy] even without any previous,” said the judge.

However, at this point Garda Turner made a point of agreeing with Mr Cooney’s assertion as to O’Neill’s character, and the judge allowed him the benefit.

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