Judgement has been reserved in the trial of a former Donegal public representative charged with assaulting a Garda.
Former Bundoran Town Councillor, Florence McNulty (56) of The Palace, Main Street, Bundoran is charged with assaulting Garda Helen Munnelly outside Bundoran Town Council offices on February 10th, 2014.
The long-running case was adjourned at today’s sitting of Ballyshannon District Court.
Reserving judgement until March 24th, Judge Paul Kelly said: " I am going to go back over the evidence of the last number of hearings and the submissions heard here today."
Mrs McNulty’s son, Joseph McNulty (34) of 85 Doran Close, Bundoran is charged with threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour as has her husband, Thomas McNulty (57) of Main Street, Bundoran.
Opening the submissions this morning at Ballyshannon District Court, Supt. Colm Nevin said: “Evidence from Garda Gilvarry and Garda Munnelly identified Florence Mc Nulty as assaulting Garda Munnelly in Bundoran. The CCTV evidence also identified Mrs. McNulty as being present.”
In regard to defence claims that it was Florence McNulty’s sister who assaulted the garda, Supt Nevin said: “The evidence is very strong from the two gardaí. We saw CCTV where the camera jumped from one site to another.
“My submission is that there is very, very strong evidence in relation to the assault.”
In respect of the charges against Joseph and Thomas McNulty, he said: “You can see from the CCTV that there was a breach of public order - there was roaring, shouting and abusive and insulting comments made toward the gardaí. There has been an attempt by the defence to put the blame on one of the younger McNulty family, Diarmuid. But we have ample evidence to show otherwise.”
Counsel for the defence, Mr. Johnnie McCoy (BL), said that the case is still prejudiced by the fact that Cllr. Sean McEniff is regrettably unable to give evidence, as he was a crucial witness in defence arguments.
The 81-year-old is in intensive care in Sligo University Hospital after been transferred from the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin. At a previous hearing Judge Kelly accepted medical evidence that Mr McEniff would never be able to give evidence to standards required by a court of law. Mr. Coy told the Judge that Judge Kevin Kilrane had made a previous order to disclose video evidence by Patricia McCafferty to the prosecution which “was totally wrong”. “The onus is on the prosecution to prove the case,” he said. “It was very unfair that the prosecution knew what the defence evidence was. This was refuted later by Supt. Nevin who said that the video evidence was in fact sent to GSOC by Patricia McCafferty. He added that Diarmuid McNulty, a son and brother of the accused, had accepted in sworn evidence that he was the person that was shouting at the gardaí.”
Mr. McCoy alleged that the incident was a case of Garda mismanagement and overreaction by the gardaí.
Mr. McCoy spoke about the public order charges against his clients, Thomas and Joseph McNulty. He told the court that video evidence will show that Joseph McNulty had his hands in the pockets of his hoodie, and that it was quite clear that it was Garda Ciaran O’Brien who put his hands on the defendant and instigated the matter. "The use of the pepper spray on Joseph McNulty by the garda without warning was an overreaction.” he said. “Mr. McNulty was not trying to resist arrest."
In relation to Thomas McNulty, Mr. McCoy said that nobody had asked him to move away and that he only came to the attention of the gardaí when pepper spray was deployed.
Mr McCoy added: "There was no threat to the gardaí and it was an overreaction. There was no justification for the pepper spray.”
On the assault charge against Florence McNulty on Garda Helen Munnelly, Mr. McCoy said that video evidence shows that the time estimated for the alleged offence was 1.5 seconds and that Florence McNulty could not have assaulted Garda Munnelly in that time.
“It could not have happened in that timeline - it is simply impossible,” he said. “She was being kept away from Garda Munnelly by Garda O’Brien and would simply not have been able to assault her in the alleged time frame.” In reply to Mr McCoy’s submissions Supt Nevin said: “In relation to the video evidence by Patricia McCafferty this was sent to GSOC and not to us."
Addressing the allegation of overreaction, the superintendent said this was not the case, adding that the use of pepper spray was the first form of defence by gardaí.
Supt Nevin added: “In regard to the alleged assault on Garda Munnelly, two gardaí have stated clearly that they saw Florence McNulty assault Garda Munnelly. The video evidence produced in court here today has breaks in it, and I am not sure if it was edited or not.”
Judge Kelly said:“I am going to back over the evidence of the last number of hearings and the submissions heard here today. Consequently I will reserve judgement until March 24th."