Athlone man awarded €505,000 in damages following assault by Gardai

May 11, 2023 08:52 By Shannonside News
Athlone man awarded €505,000 in damages following assault by Gardai
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He was also awarded his legal costs against the state by the judge.

A High Court jury has awarded €505,000 in damages to a 62-year-old former League of Ireland player after it found that he was assaulted by members of An Gardai Siochana.

Michael Sheehan from Hillquarter, Coosan, Athlone, Co Westmeath had sued the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice and the State claims that he suffered injuries after he claimed he was pepper sprayed and assaulted by members of An Garda Siochana in an incident that occurred in the centre of the town on the night of June 3rd, 2012.

The defendants fully denied claims that the Gardai had assaulted and falsely imprisoned the plaintiff on the night in question or were negligent or in breach of their duty of care towards Mr Sheehan.


In his action Mr Sheehan said that on the night in question he was arrested following an interaction with three members of the Gardai following an alleged public order incident in Irishtown, Athlone.

Mr Sheehan claimed that during the incident he was arrested, he was assaulted by a Gardai who he claimed used unreasonable force and had acted in a very aggressive manner and had falsely imprisoned him.

Pepper spray was applied by the Gardai directly into his face from extremely close range. He also claimed that while he was being taken to the Garda barracks he was manhandled, was struck on the back of the head, and kneed in the back.


The court also heard that Mr Sheehan was subsequently acquitted of committing any offence under the Public Order Act by a criminal court.

Represented by Moira Flahive SC, Caroline Latham Bl instructed by Donal McGann of Alastair Purdy & Co Solicitors Mr Sheehan said he had never come to the attention of the Gardai prior or since the incident in 2012.

Arising out of the incident Mr Sheehan said that he suffered injuries to his face, head and back. He also claimed that he suffered from depression and insomnia, as a result of what had happened to him.


Mr Sheehan, a father and grandfather, is well-known in sporting circles had previously played football for Athlone Town and other clubs in the League of Ireland.

He also played GAA locally and intercounty football for Westmeath.

In its defence the State's lawyers argued that Mr Sheehan was arrested after two others in his company had been observed by Gardai piggybacking in the middle of the street and were causing a hazard to traffic.


The State also claimed that during the incident Mr Sheehan had acted aggressively towards the Gardai, and that he was pepper sprayed after another person had assaulted one of the Gardai, and matters had got out of hand.

It was claimed that Mr Sheehan told the Gardai dealing with the matter that "Don't you know who I am," and "you better have a good solicitor."

Its response to the public order incident was reasonable and proportionate, the defendants submitted.


The defendants also said that Mr Sheehan had admitted after his arrest that he had consumed five or six pints of beer that night.

Mr Sheehan rejected all of the state's allegations and said that he had only consumed one pint of beer shandy and had only been in the pub for a relatively short period on the night in question.

The case, which ran for several days was heard before a civil jury of five women and seven men presided over by Mr Justice Alexander Owens.

The jury after deliberating for just over an hour on Wednesday afternoon, found that the gardai had used excessive and unreasonable force in its dealing with Mr Sheehan.

It also found that he had been assaulted both in the back of the Garda car, and in the yard of Athlone Garda barracks following his arrest.

Mr Sheehan was entitled to damages of €505,000, the jury further found.

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