Garda ‘used whole can of pep­per spray on ex-TD’

Irish Examiner - - News - Gor­don Dee­gan

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.

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