There must be good evidence of wrong-doing before security men can forcibly restrain a person, warned a District Court judge this week after hearing the case of a mature student who had been pinned to the ground outside a city centre pub because of a perceived threat of a Bulmers bottle.
A charge of threatening and abusive behaviour brought against Sean Herald was dismissed at Galway District Court last Monday after Judge Gerard Haughton ruled that there had been no “just or lawful reason” to restrain him.
Herald (35 ) with an address at 1 Combers Lane, Knocknacarra, Galway, contested the charges of being intoxicated in a public place and with threatening and abusive behaviour at the King’s Head pub on June 4, 2008.
King’s Head security man Michael Flynn told the court that he had recognised the defendant when he approached the door of the pub on June 4 because he had been removed from the premises previously “for being violent”. He had asked Herald to move away and handed over his bag which had been inside the door. However, he said that Herald approached the door several times, “took a bottle”, and became “very agitated’ and “verbally threatening”. He said that he felt it was necessary to restrain Herald and hold him to the floor because he feared that the Bulmers would be thrown at them.
Defence solicitor Olivia Traynor put it to Mr Flynn that there was no mention in his statement of her client being verbally threatening. When Ms Traynor suggested that he had over reacted as Herald had done nothing with the bottle Mr Flynn said, “In my opinion, he was going to use it”.
“If he [Herald] was not threatening to me I would not have restrained him. It’s very easy to walk away and from 10 yards throw a bottle. It was a safety issue. I believed we had to restrain him,” said Mr Flynn.
Garda Denise Kelleher then gave evidence that when she arrived at the scene she observed two members of security staff restraining the defendant on the ground. She said that the defendant had been extremely agitated and that his eyes were bloodshot.
“That’s because I was being strangled,” the defendant blurted out in court.
Again, Ms Traynor noted that there was no mention of her client being aggressive in the statement, to which Garda Kelleher replied that it was in her direct evidence. Ms Traynor then said that Garda Kelleher had stated that the matter was under control at all times and there was never a situation where there was a breach of the peace.
Judge Haughton said that he did not accept that argument as “a person restrained can still cause a breach”. However, he said that he was not satisfied that there was any just or lawful reason to restrain the defendant. He warned that the security man cannot act in anticipation without good evidence that the person is going to throw the bottle. He therefore dismissed the charge of threatening and abusive behaviour.
In relation to the remaining charge, the defendant gave evidence that he had been drinking at the pub but was leaving the area to go home before he had been restrained. “I picked up my bag, put it on my shoulder, and picked up my drink when I was jumped upon,” said Herald who was then convicted and fined €100 with two months to pay.