Gardaí settle court case over man's false arrest due to mistaken identity

GAA groundsman Darren Fitzpatrick (52) of Glenties Drive, Finglas, Dublin had sued the gardaí over the incident
Gardaí settle court case over man's false arrest due to mistaken identity

High Court reporters

The gardaí and the State have settled an action for false arrest over what the High Court heard was a case of mistaken identity.

GAA groundsman Darren Fitzpatrick (52) of Glenties Drive, Finglas, Dublin, will also receive the costs of taking his case.

A judge and jury heard Mr Fitzpatrick was a completely innocent party who gardaí believed fit the description of an armed robber when he was arrested while walking on a street in Finglas on January 15th, 2015.

The Minister for Justice, the Garda Commissioner and the State denied he was falsely arrested and assaulted by gardaí, who argued they had reasonable suspicion to believe he was involved in the robbery of a bookmakers a short time earlier in Finglas.

Following exchanges between the judge and lawyers for both sides on Thursday, Mr Justice Alexander Owen said the evidence so far, including that of the arresting garda, showed Mr Fitzpatrick had been improperly arrested.

The arresting officer, Garda Gary Brennan, told the court he approached Mr Fitzpatrick thinking he was a robbery suspect and, based on Mr Fitzpatrick's reaction, decided to arrest him. In a later statement to his superiors, he said he arrested him for a drug search. Mr Fitzpatrick has never taken drugs, the court heard.

Mr Justice Owens said he would have a look at the case law on the matter overnight but if he was correct, the only matter for the jury would be to assess damages.

When the case was due to resume on Friday, Seamus Clarke SC, for the State parties, said the case had been compromised following talks between the parties and could be struck out with an order for Mr Fitzpatrick's legal costs.

The judge told the jury the case had been settled and excused them from jury service for 10 years.

'Jumped on'

Mr Fitzpatrick told the court he did not know what was going on when several gardaí "jumped on" him on Glasanaon Road, Finglas, as he was arriving at his then-girlfriend's home.

He was handcuffed, bundled into a Garda car and taken to Finglas Garda station without a word ever being said to him by gardaí, he said. Forty minutes later he was released without charge after CCTV and other evidence conclusively established he could not have been the robber.

He underwent a search in a cell in the Garda station, during which his trousers were pulled down and swabs of his saliva were taken. He suffered two broken knuckles on his hand during the arrest, injuries which affect his ability to lift heavy items in his job and his sea-fishing hobby.

He was shocked and traumatised by the whole incident, the court hear, with his counsel Richard Lyons stating Mr Fitzpatrick had acted "very reasonably" and had not gone to a psychiatrist but did get treatment for his broken knuckles.

In his evidence, Gda Brennan said when he approached Mr Fitzpatrick in the street he put his hand on his arm, and because of Mr Fitzpatrick's reaction, he arrested him.

He said they fell over a low garden wall in the struggle, a claim denied by Mr Fitzpatrick and his then-girlfriend who saw the incident.

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