A Christmas night out ended up in court when a Kilkenny man punched an off-duty garda sergeant.
The assault occurred in a Kilkenny late night bar on December 15, 2018.
Stephen Bolger, Ballyboro, Clonroche, Co Wexford, contested the charge in court. Following a hearing of all the evidence, and viewing CCTV of the incident, he was convicted of assault.
Sgt Michael Dardis gave evidence that he was on a Christmas night out with friends in Kilkenny on the night in question. They had been for a meal and then went on to this bar in the city centre.
It was approaching 2am when Sgt Dardis went to the bar. He saw Mr Bolger lying on the bar, slumped against it. A number of people were waiting to be served and Sgt Dardis asked Mr Bolger to move. He eventually did.
Sgt Dardis said Mr Bolger “eyeballed” him but he didn’t engage. He ordered drinks and brought Mr Bolger to the attention of bar staff.
Mr Bolger again tried to engage Sgt Dardis, who said he put down his drinks because he feared an altercation.
Sgt Dardis said he was then punched in the face without warning. Mr Bolger punched him a second time before security staff intervened.
Sgt Dardis went outside to speak to gardaí. He said he had a bruised lip but no lasting injuries.
The sergeant had never met Mr Bolger before, he said, and he had not identified himself as a garda. The assault was ‘completely unprovoked’ the sergeant said. He knew Mr Bolger was aggravated but he didn’t expect to be punched.
Solicitor for Mr Bolger, Ed Hughes, put it to Sgt Dardis that the CCTV showed him put his forehead against Mr Biolger and then push him, before the punches were thrown. Sgt Dardis said he did not touch the other man ‘at all’.
The CCTV from the bar was shown in court. Sgt Dardis said it showed him leaning in to hear what Mr Bolger was saying, because there was loud music playing. He said he knew from Mr Bolger’s demeanour the situation could get out of hand and he was appeasing him.
When Mr Bolger was removed by the bouncers, Sgt Dardis said he left his drinks and followed them outside to speak to the gardaí.
Garda Dunning was on duty outside the bar. He spoke to Sgt Dardis and could see his lip was injured.
Sgt Dardis pointed out Mr Bolger to him, he was intoxicated and being held against a wall by the bouncers.
Garda Dunning described Sgt Dardis as ‘shaken’. He took details from both men and obtained the CCTV from the bar. He interviewed both men in the following days.
Applications from Mr Hughes to strike out the charges were rejected. He had argued Mr Bolger was unlawfully detained by the bouncers, that the identification was in doubt and that the CCTV showed Mr Bolger was defending himself. Judge Carthy denied all three applications.
Mr Hughes then declined to go into evidence.
The court heard Mr Bolger had three previous convictions, dating back to 2002.
Mr Hughes said his client accepted he was in the bar that night but doesn’t have any recollection of an incident occurring. He was severely intoxicated.
The solicitor said his client had brought to court a character reference letter from his employer.
Mr Bolger was prepared to make a donation to the Garda Benevolent Fund.
Judge Carthy said she was considering a custodial sentence for what she described as ‘a nasty enough assault’.
She adjourned the case to April to allow a Probation Report to be prepared and told Mr Bolger to bring a sum of money to court on that day to offer as compensation to the sergeant.
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