A Ballybane teenager who threatened to rape a garda’s daughter and made a “gun” sign at a garda during a court sitting was given eight months detention this week.
A shocked Judge Mary Fahy described the actions of 18-year-old Thomas Laffey as “outrageous” and condemned the “trend” of threats that gardai and now even their families face. She added that a defendant’s personal and alcohol issues were no excuse to make threats, whether it was meant or not, to a garda.
Laffey with an address at 129 Castlepark, Ballybane, appeared at Galway District Court on Monday charged with numerous public order offences, resisting arrest, obstruction, and possession of a weapon, namely a large wine bottle.
Garda Fergal O’Grady gave evidence that on May 15, 2009, at 3.45am he was on patrol in Eyre Square when he observed the defendant drinking a bottle of Buckfast. When told to place the bottle in a bin Laffey told Garda O’Grady to “f**k off”. Garda O’Grady then seized the bottle and placed it into the bin and Laffey, who was highly agitated, began roaring abuse. During arrest Laffey attempted to headbutt Garda O’Grady and assistance was needed to restrain him. When Laffey was placed into a patrol car he again tried to headbutt the garda officers and tried to bite Garda O’Grady’s arm. Garda O’Grady said that the abusive behaviour continued at Galway Garda Station and “while attempting to place him in to the cell he said he would kill me when he gets out and he would rape my daughter when he was free”.
Garda Paddy McDonnell told the court that on June 27, 2009, at 1am in Eyre Square he observed a group of males drinking near to the public toilets. When told to move from the area, the defendant was reluctant to obey the direction and muttered “f**king rookies”. As Garda O’Donnell was dealing with another individual at the taxi rank Laffey “fired” a wine bottle at gardai. Garda McDonnell then gave chase on foot to the centre of Eyre Square. Laffey stopped at a bench and picked up another bottle before shouting “f**k off pig”. As Laffey continued acting in an agressive manner Garda McDonnell drew his baton and told Laffey “to get back”. Garda McDonnell said that Laffey then ran off into some bushes while still holding the bottle, he then “came up in a crouched position” and Garda McDonnell had to “utilise” his baton to make an arrest.
Inspector Pat McHugh said that on June 13, 2009, at 2.47am the defendant was seen acting in a threatening manner and was drinking alcohol in Eyre Square. When approached Laffey told the garda officers to f**k off. The inspector said that Laffey shouted that he “was going to murder the garda and went to headbutt” him. Laffey was eventually subdued and arrested.
Regarding an incident in the courtroom on July 22, 2009, Inspector McHugh said that Laffey’s case had just been dealt with and as he was walking back to his seat “he stuck his fingers up” at Garda Hugh Rodgers. Inspector McHugh further explained that Laffey made a “gun” sign with his fingers as if to shoot at Garda Rodgers.
“That’s extremely serious, to make a gun sign in the court house at a garda,” said Judge Fahy, who later added that in 17 years she had never heard evidence of anyone doing that.
Defence solicitor Valerie Corcoran said that on July 22 a comment had been made to Laffey about his father who had died when Laffey was just 13. She added that there was “nothing behind” it. Explaining her client’s background, Ms Corcoran said that there is a “serious lack of male parental guidance”, that he was an only child, and had witnessed his father’s death in a road traffic accident. She added that Laffey’s mother was quite unwell and that he was her only carer.
Ms Corcoran said that Laffey had never dealt with his father’s death and that he was using alcohol to deal with his difficulties. She added that her client was very young, and is attempting to confront his problems by attending an anger management course.
“It beggars belief that he would come into court and do that, whether he means it or not. Threats to gardai, there seems to be a new trend that is coming through now. It’s outrageous that gardai would have to deal with this. They are threatened with bottles, now there are threats of harming their family,” said Judge Fahy, who imposed a total of eight months detention and a fine of €400 payable forthwith.
Leave to appeal was granted and this was later taken up with conditions of bail being that Laffey stay away from Eyre Square and remain sober.