Judge slams Wexford garda's accuser
A JUDGE said that a heroin user who attempted to rob a haberdashery shop with a used syringe, but reported a hero garda from Wexford to the Garda Ombudsman for an alleged assault during his arrest was more concerned with unusable CCTV than showing remorse.
Gary Purcell, aged 29, of Crystal Court in Kilcohan, Waterford city, was last week found guilty of the attempted robbery of the Singer Sewing Centre on Newgate Street in the city on November 5, 2011.
A Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) case has already been dropped against David Hearne, an award-winning garda from Fethard-on-Sea who has received awards for lifesaving in the course of his duties and who arrested Purcell.
Purcell alleged that he was beaten during arrest and that CCTV footage would be wiped.
However, a GSOC spokeswoman has confirmed that the investigation was closed in June 2014 because of 'a lack of independent evidence to substantiate an allegation'.
A jury at the two-day trial at the Circuit Court in Waterford heard last week that worker Margaret Burtchaell was working with proprietor John O'Donnell in a workshop at the back of the store when the bell went but nobody could be seen on the CCTV monitor.
However, on the third occasion this happened, she saw a 'tall gentleman' enter the shop with a hood up and a scarf around his neck.
She went out and approached him while he was at the till, pulling at him.
'I pulled him back and said, "Oi, what are you doing".' The man then turned around and said, "I want the money", the court heard.
Ms Burtchaell said that Purcell put his left arm out in front of him and that she thought he had a knife. 'I didn't know what he was doing,' she said.
However, Mr O'Donnell and tailor Tom Malone rushed out from the back of the shop and tackled Purcell to the ground.
Mr O'Donnell, in his evidence, said that he saw a syringe just metres away and that Purcell was reaching for it.
The accused later told gardai that he had received 20 syringes at a hospital prior to the incident and maintained that the used one on the floor has come from the inside of his jacket. Meanwhile, gardai arrived and arrested Purcell following a struggle. Purcell later complained about the level of force used during his arrest, which was referred on to GSOC.
Mr O'Donnell said that there was a problem with a USB port on the computer and, when contacted by GSOC, he offered them the hard drive to retrieve the CCTV.
However, he said that he heard nothing more from them and the footage was not available for the trial.
Garda David Hearne, aged 43, has been out of work injured after he was run over at a checkpoint in Waterford city, where he is based, last August. However, at the court to give his evidence last week, he said that he instantly recognised Purcell when he attended the scene as arresting officer that day. Along with garda Lar Gilmartin, Garda Hearne went to the assistance of the struggling men.
Purcell failed to put his hands behind his back and resisted with such violence that Garda Hearne, who is a member of the Hook Sub Aqua Club, was thrown towards a display cabinet.
Garda Hearne said that reasonable force was needed to handcuff him and prevent him reaching for the needle that was within arm's reach.
A paper bag from a chemist was found close by that contained sealed and capped needles, whereas the other needle was open and bent at a 90 degree angle.
A complaint to the GSOC made by Purcell came to light during cross-examination.
Garda Hearne said it 'was complete and utter lies' that Purcell was thrown up against the wall and beaten.
He also denied the he told the 29-year-old that the CCTV was going to be wiped.
He said there is no one more annoyed than him that the footage was lost, but added he did not think it would vindicate Purcell.
The outcome of the investigation revealed that there was no evidence to substantiate the allegation.
After the jury found Purcell guilty, Ms Burtchaell took the stand to say that she is now nervous in the shop when alone and did not sleep for days following the incident.
'I hope this young man thinks about what he is doing to people,' she said.
Judge Sean O'Donnobhain remanded Purcell in custody and adjourned sentencing until next Thursday for preparation of a probation report.
The judge warned him to reflect on his crime, rather than on CCTV.
'He certainly gave me the impression that his is transfixed with himself and the CCTV.'
Last July, Garda Hearne received a Marine Meritorious award after rescuing two young men in Waterford within just 10 days.
He has been involved in up to seven rescues and while he is a current member of the Traffic Corps in Waterford, he was a former member of the Garda Underwater Unit for nine years.