By ALISON HEALY
THE TRIAL of four gardaí charged with entering a flat illegally and assaulting a teenager has heard claims he was beaten with a baton while his mother was held against her will in the bathroom.
The opening day of the trial heard that student gardaí who were at the scene, but not involved, would testify about what they saw and heard.
Garda Seán O’Leary, Eoin Murtagh, Alan Conlon and Claire Delaney have pleaded not guilty to forcible entry, assault causing harm to Owen Gaffney and trespass in his Basin Street Upper flat in Dublin on February 17th, 2008.
Garda Murtagh, Conlon and Delaney are also charged with the false imprisonment of Mr Gaffney’s mother Fidelma while the alleged beating was taking place and have denied the charge.
The four accused were stationed in Kilmainham and Kevin Street Garda stations at the time.
Setting out the case against the officers, Tom O’Connell, prosecuting, said it was “about guards behaving unlawfully”. He said the incident appeared to be a pre-arranged plan to give Mr Gaffney a beating. There was no justified or lawful excuse for this type of conduct, he said.
Mr O’Connell said there appeared to have been a “history of conflict” between Mr Gaffney and the gardaí on the previous evening, or at least some belief that he had been involved in a public order incident.
The jury would hear evidence that the officers did not have a warrant when they entered the flat, near St James’s Hospital, between 5-6pm on that Sunday. Before they arrived, he said Ms Gaffney received a call from a friend to say the gardaí were on their way. She put the phone down to answer the door and the friend recorded what followed. He later gave the phone to gardaí investigating the incident but also saved the recording on to a memory stick.
The court would hear claims that when gardaí were asked by Ms Gaffney if they had a warrant, Garda Delaney waved a piece of paper in the air, suggesting that it was a warrant.
Mr O’Connell said the officers asked where her son was and on hearing he was asleep in his room they went upstairs. She followed them into her son’s room and said she saw Garda O’Leary lifting up the duvet and hitting her son on the head with a baton.
Mr O’Connell said witnesses would say he was beaten by “at least one baton. He was kicked. He was punched and as a result of that he suffered injury.”
It would be claimed that when Ms Gaffney protested, a garda pulled her arm behind her, grabbed her throat and forced her into the bathroom, where she was detained for about five minutes.
He said two student gardaí were present on the evening. One of them would tell how she saw Ms Gaffney being pushed into the bathroom, heard her screaming and heard screaming coming from Mr Gaffney’s bedroom.
She would also say that Garda Murtagh asked for a wipe to clean blood from his knuckles while Garda O’Leary used a wipe to clean his baton. A DNA analysis of blood stains on Garda Murtagh’s baton later found elements of the DNA of Owen Gaffney and Garda Murtagh.
Another student garda, outside the flat, would say she heard a woman screaming. A second family friend, in the flat on that evening, would say that Mr Gaffney’s face was covered in blood when he came downstairs.
Mr O’Connell said Mr Gaffney’s father took him to St James’s Hospital’s AE following the incident. He had a cut lip, a large bruise on his head, bruising on his back and arms and tender ribs.
Senior officer on duty at Kilmainham that evening Sgt Colette Wheeler would say she was not aware of any planned searches in the Basin Street area that day.