Last Thursday (May 26), Dean Foley was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, with 12 months suspended, for assault. Foley, a serving Garda at the time of the attack, was convicted for a brutal unprovoked attack on Stephen Murphy in Cork. Foley knocked Murphy unconscious and inflicted a series of horrific injuries on him. As a result, Murphy suffered bleeding to the brain, broken teeth and broken bones to his face.
However, the next day, despite the savage nature of the attack, the judge that sentenced him reconsidered that sentence and suspended all of it ensuring Foley's immediate release. In an extraordinary decision, the judge decided to keep Foley out of prison because as a Garda he would have a 'harder time' serving his sentence than an ordinary prisoner would.
|Convicted Garda Dean Foley|
If the situation had been reversed and Garda Foley had suffered this attack and injuries at the hands of a member of the public, the attacker would not be treated so leniently. The reality is that the perpetrator would be in a prison cell for the best part of a decade.
Coincidentally a young man who carried out an assault resulting in similar injuries was recently convicted at a court in County Clare and sentenced to 6 years in prison. So while this young man goes to jail for six years, Foley walks free despite the savage brutality of his crime solely because he was a member of the Gardai.
We have regularly seen Gardai act with impunity in breaking the law and in attacking peaceful protesters. For the past ten years at anti-Shell protests in Mayo Gardai have attacked peaceful protesters causing serious injuries and hospitalisation in many instances. (click here for article on policing in north Mayo)
|Victim of Garda assault at student anti-cuts demo|
Such brutality are not isolated incidents. Gardai have been involved in attacking protesters on many other occasions including the 'Reclaim the Streets' demo a number of years back, éirígí's Anglo Irish Bank protest in May of last year (click here) and the student anti-cuts protest in Dublin last November (click here).
We have seen the litany of other crimes committed by Gardai, including the planting of drugs as well as weapons and explosives, the manufacturing of false confessions and the deliberate framing of individuals as exposed by the Morris Tribunal in Donegal.
All of the above are just the tip of the iceberg, yet how many Gardai have gone to jail for any of these offences? None.
On the other hand, those engaged in peaceful protest have regularly been imprisoned.
Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington has been imprisoned on five separate occasions for her role in protesting against Shell's planned pipeline in north Mayo.
|Pat O'Donnell after Garda Assault|
Fellow campaigner Pat 'the chief' O'Donnell served five months out of a seven month sentence in Castlerea prison last year for public order offences relating to a cavalcade in support of Ms Harrington who was on hunger-strike at the time.
Many people who are unable to pay their debts or fines are regularly jailed despite the hardship inflicted on them and their families. In the first 10 months of 2010, 3,200 people were jailed in the twenty six counties for non-payment of debt. No leniency or consideration is given by the courts and the so-called justice system as they despatch working class men and women to jail for extremely minor offences and inability to pay.
Yet here we have the extraordinary situation of a judge coming back into court the day after sending a brutal attacker to prison, to change his mind and let him go free solely because he was a Garda and might have a 'hard time' in prison.
Describing the decision as “shocking but not surprising” éirígí Sligeach activist Gerry Casey said it exposed the “corrupt and two-tier nature” at the heart of the twenty six county state's so-called 'justice' system.
Casey said: “This is a shocking decision to allow this criminal escape justice solely on the basis of him being a Garda. It gives Gardai and others in positions of authority within this state a green light to to abuse their positions and commit horrific crimes safe in the knowledge that they will not serve time.”
“While shocking, this judgement is not surprising considering the corrupt and two—tier nature of what passes for a 'justice system' in this state. It is extremely rare for a Garda to ever have to answer for his/her crimes before the courts. It is even rarer that justice is done on the seldom occasion that they do.”
"The Gardai, the courts and the 'justice system' are not there to provide justice for working people. It is there for one reason and one reason only - to serve and protect the interests of this state's elites."