Man jailed for throwing firework at anti-lockdown protest, perforating garda's eardrum

Jake Merriman (31) was jailed for 20 months after he pleaded guilty to endangerment on Grafton Street, Dublin on February 27th, 2021
Man jailed for throwing firework at anti-lockdown protest, perforating garda's eardrum

Sonya McLean

A garda’s eardrum was perforated after a protestor at an anti-lockdown demonstration threw a firework into the crowd, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has heard.

Jake Merriman (31) was jailed for 20 months on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to endangerment on Grafton Street, Dublin on February 27th, 2021.

Additional charges of assaulting two gardaí were taken into account after the court heard that Merriman also punched a garda in the face and kicked another garda in the testicles.

Merriman, of Meadowslands Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, later told gardaí that he had no intention of causing trouble that day. He said he had been drinking the night before and had decided to head into town for the protest.

“It was meant to be a bit of a laugh,” he said.

Merriman has minor previous convictions which has been dealt with in the District Court.

Detective Sergeant Patrick Traynor accepted that a juvenile handed Merriman the firework, lit it and then Merriman threw it into the crowd.

It landed close to Garda Mark Walsh, perforating his right ear drum. The garda has since fully recovered, but his hearing was impacted for some time.

'Very violent manner'

Judge Martin Nolan said Merriman took a very active part in the demonstration and behaved in a very violent manner.

He noted from a victim impact statement, which was not read out in court, that Gda Walsh was in considerable pain and distress, and lost his hearing for some time.

“He worried for some time that he would not be able to return to his role, but thankfully his hearing has recovered,” Judge Nolan said.

“He (Merriman) was violent, aggressive and hostile on the day. He aggravated the situation and caused considerable difficulties for the demonstrators and the gardaí," the judge continued before he said Merriman deserved a custodial sentence.

"He kicked, punched and discharged a weapon,” Judge Nolan said, while acknowledging that the accused had not intended to cause the damage he did when he threw the firework.

The judge sentenced Merriman to three years in prison with the final 16 months suspended on strict conditions including that he hands over €5,000 for Gda Walsh, should he choose to accept it.

He brought his fair share of hostility and anger

The court heard that Merriman, who runs his own power washing business, had €10,000 in court as a token of his remorse.

“Gardaí have a difficult time, particularly on that day. He brought his fair share of hostility and anger,” Judge Nolan said.

Det Sgt Traynor told John Moher BL, prosecuting, that Merriman had been vocal and abusive and had been throwing glass and plastic bottles at gardaí earlier that day before he punched and kicked the two gardaí.

He later told gardaí it had been his intention to cause a disturbance and make noise.

Det Sgt Traynor agreed with Keith Spencer BL, defending, that his client told gardaí in interview that it had been “a moment of madness” following a night of drinking.

He accepted that Merriman said he had been “foolish” to go in to the city that day and repeatedly called himself a fool when being questioned.

It was further accepted that Merriman had demonstrated sincere remorse and regret and had written a letter to the injured garda.

Mr Spencer said his client had received hate mail in the aftermath of the demonstration. “He suffered the fall-out from it being shared in the media,” counsel said.

He said Merriman had been struggling with alcohol and being out of work at the time due to the pandemic.

“He knows he took the wrong choice and pledges to take the right choice in the future,” Mr Spencer added.

“It is an incident that caused him deep regret and remorse and he is trying to put things right.”

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