A Garda who admitted assaulting a man during a night out has escaped a conviction.
At Tuesday’s sitting of Letterkenny District Court, Judge Paul Kelly struck out the case against Garda Ian Oates after considering the impact that a conviction for assault could have on his career.
Oates admitted assaulting Richard Geraghty at Speer’s Lane in Letterkenny while off duty on September 1st, 2011.
Oates was ordered to pay an initial 5,000 euro as part of an agreed compensation settlement to Mr Geraghty and a further 1,000 euro to the Friends of Letterkenny General Hospital.
Oates had been out socialising with two other gardaí before the assault took place.
CCTV footage of the assault seen by the court showed a conversation between Mr Geraghty and Oates outside Gallagher’s Hotel. Oates then motioned to Mr Geraghty to follow him as he walked round the corner to Speer’s Lane. After a further exchange Oates could be seen striking Geraghty before the two became involved in a tussle on the ground before Oates emerged with his t-shirt torn.
In a statement to gardaí Mr Geraghty said Oates spoke to him first and offered to shake his hand. He refused to and Oates invited him into the lane as he wanted to talk to him. Mr Geraghty said Oates started “laying into him” and the assault continued when he fell to the ground. Witnesses said it appeared that Oates used his elbow on Mr Geraghty as he lay on the ground.
Oates told gardaí that Mr Geraghty approached and was abusive to him, calling him a ‘f****** pig’. He denied assaulting Mr Geraghty in an interview with gardaí saying he had been the victim and had received a broken tooth.
Mr. Geraghty received a laceration to his face and abrasions to his arms and knees.
Defence counsel Damian Crawford BL told the court Oates had been commended for saving the life of a woman who had jumped into the River Swilly in 2008 and for the detection of a sexual assault in 2012. A conviction for assault could have catastrophic consequences for his career, he said.
Garda Oates, who had no previous convictions, apologised to the Mr Geraghty in court.
Judge Paul Kelly said members of An Garda Siochana must have the trust and confidence of the public and such incidents can do considerable damage to that trust. But he said a conviction could have draconian consequences for his future because of ‘a short period of indiscipline’. He said it was for that reason he was taking the ‘unusual step’ of not recording a conviction.