Garda ‘used whole can of pepper spray on ex-TD’
An ex-Labour TD Michael McNamara told a court yesterday he was “utterly and completely shocked” when he was pepper sprayed outside his home by a garda.
“My eyes were burning out of my head,” the 43-yearold Clareman said of the incident in which Garda Darren McLoughlin pepper-sprayed him just after 2.10am on December 10, 2016.
Gda McLoughlin, the court heard, pursued Mr McNamara to his home at Tobernagath, Scarriff, on suspicion that the defendant had consumed an intoxicant due to the manner of his driving.
Mr McNamara passed a breath test for alcohol at Killaloe Garda Station later that night when found to be substantially under the limit, but was yesterday banned for two years and fined €400 after Judge John King convicted him of dangerous driving.
Judge King said there was evidence that Mr McNamara was driving at excessive speed in a dark, narrow, undulating road and taking the centre of the road.
The judge said: “If there was a pedestrian on that road? If there was a cyclist?”
Counsel for Mr McNamara, Martin Dully BL, said a driving ban “will be exceptionally disastrous for this man”.
He said there was evidence that Mr McNamara was 20km over the speed limit and “what you have here is not dangerous driving, it couldn’t possibly be”.
Mr Dully said Mr McNamara is a man “of exemplary character” and has no previous convictions.
Judge King dismissed a further charge against Mr McNamara that he had ob- structed a garda in the course of his duties.
Judge King said that it would “unfair and unsafe” to convict Mr McNamara of the obstruction charge as Gda McLoughlin had not specifically advised Mr McNamara that he was invoking Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act concerning a garda entering the curtilage of a person’s dwelling without a warrant.
In evidence, Mr McNamara told the court that he was temporarily “blinded” by the use of the pepper spray to his eyes, mouth, and nose outside his home.
Mr Dully said that Garda McLoughlin “emptied the entire contents of the pepper spray can, inches away from Mr McNamara’s face”.
The defendant told the court: “I will never forget it as long as I live — in my own yard, pepper-sprayed, handcuffed and thrown into the back of a car.”
Mr McNamara said he was not abusive at any stage, and denied evidence from Gda McLoughlin of making three separate attempts to dash into his home. The officer applied the pepper spray on the third attempt when trying to restrain him.
Mr McNamara said that he told Gda McLoughlin: “I have done nothing wrong. This is crazy and I would like you to leave now. I want to go to bed.”
Mr McNamara said that he had a couple of drinks earlier that night at McNamara’s pub in Scarriff with the cast of a local production of Oliver, in which he had a small role.
Mr Dully said that Garda McLoughlin’s actions towards Mr McNamara were “over the top and utterly unreasonable”.
In reply, Gda McLoughlin said: “I would say it was quite the opposite... I never encountered such a situation that night.”
Judge King fixed recognisance in the event of an appeal against the dangerous driving conviction.
Michael McNamara: Said he was shocked at the garda’s actions.