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File photo Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Calls for harsher sentences as garda couple's attackers look set to avoid prison

One of the off-duty gardaí who was attacked now has to wear glasses permanently – the GRA says offenders should feel the full rigours of the law.

THE PRESIDENT OF the Garda Representative Association has said assaults on gardaí should be “treated with the gravity they deserve and the full rigours of the law”.

His remarks come after a judge this week indicated he will be handing down suspended sentences and community service to four men who attacked an off-duty garda couple.

The four men pleaded guilty to charges of assault causing harm on the two gardaí, Ciara Sheehan and Gary Conneally, in June 2012, the Mayo News reported. The court heard that the couple, who were off-duty at the time, were followed by the four men.

Conneally was knocked unconscious and sustained a number of injuries, including an injury over his right eye which means he now has to wear glasses permanently. Sheehan was also knocked to the ground in the assault and said she has been told that she might never recover from an injury to her back.

The local newspaper reported both gardaí said they now find it difficult to deal with public-order offences.

Judge Rory MacCabe indicated this week that he would sentence each of the men involved in the assault to a combination of suspended sentences and community service – if they are eligible for it.

Responding to the news, GRA President Dermot O’Brien said it is an “unacceptable occupational hazard that gardaí remain in danger even when they are off duty”.

All too often they have been targeted for assault because of their chosen career. This is to be condemned.

O’Brien said the number of assaults on gardaí have been increasing daily, running at around three per day. The GRA is calling for a chance in legislation to introduce a specific offence of assaulting any worker in the emergency services.

“Everyone in our communities understands the potential for violence and confrontation is ever present when dealing with the unpredictability of human behaviour. Some people in our modern world have no respect for people or personal property – and certainly not for the gardaí who protect them.”

Sentencing for the four men in Mayo will take place on 31 October.

Read: 1,000 gardaí are assaulted each year>

Read: Garda hospitalised after motorcycle rammed by stolen van>

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