A former bike repair business owner has been left too terrified to return to Galway after masked members of a biker gang entered his premises to deliver a ‘punishment beating’ for an unpaid loan using pepper spray and iron bars to inflict injuries including a number of cuts and broken limbs.
Jeremy Burger (28 ) now with an address in Ballbriggan, Co Dublin, but formerly of 11 Sandyview Drive, Riverside, Galway, appeared before Judge Gerard Griffin at Galway Circuit Criminal Court yesterday for sentencing after entering a plea of guilty to the assault causing harm on February 8, 2011.
Garda Patrick Foley gave evidence that he arrived at BikeTech, Unit 1, Block 13, Ballybane Industrial Estate, at 7.25pm to find the injured party limping, unable to walk, and bleeding. Four masked men had entered the premises and pepper spray had been used. As a result of the assault that followed the injured party was brought to University Hospital Galway where he was treated for a broken leg, ankle, and arm as well as cuts to the back, head, and face. The following day, Garda Foley viewed the CCTV footage which showed the men, all wearing clothes bearing the insignia of a motorcycle club, entering the premises at 7.02pm and that the first man, now known to be Berger, sprayed the injured party with the pepper spray. The injured party fell to the ground and the other three men beat him with iron bars as well as a sock containing a belt buckle. The court heard that one of the attackers removed his hood revealing a distinctive large tattoo on the back of his head. This led to Berger being arrested on March 16, 2011.
Berger told gardai that the assault had been “orchestrated” by another man, that it was related to an unpaid debt, and it had been told the assault had been sanctioned by the main committee of the motorcycle club. “He felt he had no option but to take part in the reprimand by the club. He understood it to be a punishment beating. He said he found the pepper spray in the store and used it. He did not use a weapon, he used his fists and feet, and left on a motorcycle,” said Garda Foley.
The court then heard that the injured party’s motorcyle sales and repair shop has since closed, that he is now working abroad, has found it hard to find work, and is too fearful to return to Galway. Garda Foley explained that the injured party had got a loan of €10,000 from a member of the motorcycle club in late 2008 as his business had been in trouble. He was given two weeks to pay back the loan, plus €500. However, unable to meet the deadline the man was subsequently pressurised to pay back €500 every two weeks, and continued to do so until June 2010. When the injured party told the loan shark that €30,000 had already been paid and he would pay no more an altercation ensued. Regarding the assault, Garda Foley said that there had been so much pepper spray used that it was still lingering in the air when gardai arrived and they had trouble getting in. Garda Foley added that the injuries are fully healed but there is a “strong fear that if he returned to Galway there would be another beating”.
Regarding Berger’s involvement Garda Foley revealed that the defendant had no connection with the loan, but that he was told €45,000 had been given for a deposit of a house but that it had been spent. Berger had lived in Galway for a number of years but has since moved back to his native Ballbriggan and started a tattoo business. Garda Foley added Berger joined the local chapter of a motorcycle club for leisure and socialising purposes and the club has since disbanded as a result of this incident.
Defence barrister Brendan Browne said that his client had fully co-operated with gardai and realises the consquences of his actions. Garda Foley explained Berger had played a “minor role” in that he had disabled the injured party with pepper spray and not used a weapon. “Once weapons were used he [Berger] seemed to back away from the assault. He has stated his remorse,” said Garda Foley, who added that Berger had been a candidate and not a full member of the motorcycle club, and was in the process of initiation.
“He was involved under false pretences. Because he was a candidate once he was told it had been sanctioned by the committee of the club he felt obliged to take part to be a member,” said Garda Foley.
The court later heard that Berger has come up with a sum of €3,625 as a token of his remorse and that if given time would endeavour to put together more compensation.
After hearing the evidence Judge Griffin adjourned the case to December 5 next to allow him time to consider probation and psychology reports and the appropriate sentence.