A judge has jailed a 21-year-old man from Limerick for six months for assaulting a Garda sergeant who is in constant pain and unable to return to work two years after the nighttime assault in the seaside resort of Kilkee.
At Kilrush Circuit Court, Judge Francis Comerford handed down a 30 month jail sentence suspended for the past 24 months on apprentice mechanic, Stephen Cotter of Oakfield, Fr Russell Rd, Dooradoyle, Limerick after pleading guilty to the assault causing injury to Sergeant Edel Burke on August 1, the Saturday evening of the August holiday weekend in 2020.
State attorney Lorcan Connolly BL said the incident was filmed on a cell phone and widely shared on social media, but Mr Cotter was not responsible for it.
Sergeant Katie Carthy told the court that Sergeant Burke discovered the incident from clips that appeared on TikTok and Snapchat.
In his victim impact statement, Sergeant Burke said: “Video of this assault was shared widely on social media and a picture of me falling was used in national newspapers condemning the assault. – it was hard to see.”
As part of her victim impact statement, a married mother of three, Sergeant Burke said she was unable to return to work due to persistent pain and trouble sleeping following the assault.
Community Police Sergeant Burke said: ‘My unit lost their sergeant and I lost my unit. I am not sure when I will return to work or what responsibilities I will have, but I am unable to fully assume my duty of confrontation at this time. »
Sergeant Burke said the “two minute interaction with Mr Cotter should not have left me in constant pain” since August 2020.
Imposing sentence, Judge Comerford said: “Even though Stephen Cotter did not intend to do this level of damage to Sergeant Burke, he did this level of damage to Sergeant Burke.”
In an interview with Gardai after the assault, Mr Cotter – who was drunk at night – said: ‘I didn’t mean to hurt her – it wasn’t on purpose.’
Judge Comerford said he accepted it was not a premeditated attack and that Mr Cotter had made no deliberate attempt to cause that level of harm to Sergeant Burke.
Judge Comerford said the actual offense must be marked by an immediate jail sentence.
In his witness statement Sergeant Burke said large crowds had gathered at the Strandline in Kilkee overnight and it was difficult for the police as there was alcohol being consumed and a number of public order incidents had already taken place.
Sergeant Carthy said that when Sergeant Burke approached Mr. Cotter to perform a drug search on Mr. Cotter, he spat on him while wearing a face mask.
Sergeant Carthy said no saliva was spat on Sergeant Burke and he spat inside the mask.
Sergeant Carthy said that according to Sergeant Burke, Mr Cotter then said ‘it’s the f**king pigs that have the virus’. Not me. I’m gonna take it off the fucking pigs.
Sergeant Burke then went to arrest Mr. Cotter and he resisted pushing Sergeant Burke away and she fell backwards with her left hand and elbow touching the ground.
Sergeant Burke said that to date she had spent £6,000 on various medical and physiotherapy bills to deal with the injury sustained in the assault.
Sergeant Burke said an MRI detected a partial tear in a tendon in his shoulder.
She said: “My swallow was affected by this attack. My throat muscles have been damaged and I have to double swallow. It also affected my speech, but a consultant in Galway told me that I hope time will sort it out.
Sergeant Burke has tendon damage in his elbow and wrist and underwent surgery in September 2021 to decompress pressure on a nerve.
Sergeant Burke said the operation was successful ‘but I still have a two inch scar and severe stiffness which I am undergoing physiotherapy for’.
Sergeant Burke said a doctor advised surgery would be too risky to treat another nerve compression and she was given five grams of two injections in her elbow every six to eight weeks to deal with the pain .
Sergeant Burke said: ‘Another MRI in December 2021 found fluid on the nerve and it’s causing pain which I’m still suffering from.
Sergeant Burke said his “illness record was excellent up to this point in my career”.
Mr Cotter’s solicitor, Pat Whyms BL, said Mr Cotter had no drugs on him that night ‘and his purpose was to get away and not deliberately attack to bring down the Keep on the ground”.
Mr Whyms said: “What should have been a minor matter has been turned by Mr Cotter into a major issue. Mr. Cotter’s judgment was severely impaired.
Mr. Whyms added that Mr. Cotter never intended to injure the garda and/or assault the garda.
He said: “This victim was very unlucky to just have been pushed and suffered the injuries that we have heard about.”
Mr Whyms said Mr Cotter was able to offer Sgt Burke €2,000 but Judge Comerford did not order the money to be returned.
The court was told that Mr Cotter had previous convictions for assault and two for possession of drugs.