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Investigation finds garda use of pepper spray against homeless man was justified

The investigation was launched after a video went viral showing the garda arresting the man on Dublin’s Henry Street.

AN INVESTIGATION INTO an incident in which a garda arrested a homeless man in Dublin city centre has found that the officer used justified and proportionate force in making the arrest.

There had been calls for an investigation after a video surfaced which purported to show a garda shortly after pepper spraying the homeless man on Dublin’s Henry Street.

Seventeen people contacted the Garda Ombudsman concerned about excessive force after the video went up online in March.

In the video, the homeless man, who is lying prone in a doorway, is handcuffed. The garda keeps his foot on the man while waiting for a garda car to arrive.

Source: philip campion/YouTube

Unusually, the Garda Ombudsman launched a public interest investigation into the incident to establish the facts after the video was widely circulated on social media.

In the report released this evening, GSOC found that any force used by the garda was lawful and ‘no more than absolutely necessary’.

The report found that the 34-year-old homeless man in the video had spent the morning of the incident around Henry Street, and had bought at least five bottles of wine in a nearby Tesco which he then drank.

The garda from Store Street station approached the man at around 3.20pm near the GPO and ordered him to move on as he was intoxicated. The man gathered his belongings and left the immediate vicinity .

Five minutes later, the man was seen on CCTV near the entrance to an empty shop on Henry Street where he had been known to sleep. The same garda approached the man just before 3.30pm and found he had covered himself with a sleeping bag.

The garda reminded the man that he had been ordered to leave the area, but said that the man became verbally abusive to him and was then arrested for being drunk.

The garda said that as he reached for his handcuffs, he saw the man draw his hand across his chest and feared he was going to be assaulted. He warned the man not to do anything, but the man grabbed the garda’s incapacitant spray from his holster.

The garda sprayed the man, who began to kick and punch in the direction of the officer, who then sprayed him a second time and called for assistance on his radio.

GSOC said that the garda’s account was supported by CCTV. The report noted that the man involved had no recollection of what occurred due to his level of intoxication.

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GSOC investigators spoke to witnesses in the area and obtained CCTV showing the street at the time.

The homeless man was interviewed by GSOC staff on 20 March 2015, along with an interpreter, as he had limited English, and two advocates from homeless charities.

The garda involved was also interviewed, as was the college student who had taken the video which went viral.

The student said he had uploaded the video clip to his Facebook page as he felt angry and upset at what he thought was excessive forced used by the garda concerned.

The Garda Ombudsman investigation concluded that “insufficient evidence of either a criminal or disciplinary nature” was established in the course of the report.

“It appears that any force used by the garda concerned in this incident was justified, lawful and proportionate under the circumstances and no more than absolutely necessary”.

Read: When are gardaí supposed to use pepper spray? > 

Previously: Call for investigation into video claiming to show garda ‘pepper spraying’ homeless man > 

About the author:

Christine Bohan

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