Sunday, 23 Feb 2020

Man claims gardai called him a 'dirty scumbag' and wrongly accused him of attacking his fiancée, court hears

A MAN claims he was wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned after gardai wrongly suspected he carried out a savage random street attack on his fiancée.

The High Court heard the the real perpetrator was later caught and a year-and-a-half later jailed for the crime.

Shortly after the attack, gardai roused Gerald Jennings from his sleep in his fiancée’s apartment and brought him out on to the street where a sergeant told him “that is what you get for beating your girlfriend, you dirty scumbag” as he was being arrested and pepper sprayed in his eyes when protesting his innocence, the court heard.

Mr Jennings (34), a property manager from Pembroke House, Carlow Town, is suing the Garda Commissioner and the State for assault and false imprisonment on December 2, 2012. The defendants deny the claims and say reasonable force was used because he resisted arrest.

In April 2014, Colvin Keogh (21), a student from the Paddocks, Carlow, was jailed for seven years after he pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm and sexual assault on Mr Jennings fiancée, beautician Martha Kowalczyk (33). 

Ms Kowalczyk suffered serious injuries, including one which left her technically blind in one eye.

Opening the case, Michael McDowell SC said Mr Jennings was “grossly assaulted” by gardai who had mistakenly formed the view that he was the attacker because they found a handbag and a mobile phone in the apartment.  It was not an honest mistake because the “dirty scumbag” remark showed the garda was acting outside the law in a manner which the State cannot tolerate and for which it must be held accountable, he said. 

The court heard Mr Jennings had gone to sleep on the sofa in Ms Kowalczyk’s apartment after the couple came back from a night out and after Mr Jennings was refused any more drink in a local nightclub. 

Ms Kowalczyk had been in the company of a friend who was visiting her from Dublin that night and they got separated when Mr Jennings had to leave the club. She realised her friend had left her phone in her apartment and she would need it because it contained the codes to get into the apartment where the friend was also staying that night.

Ms Kowalczyk left him asleep in the apartment and went back out and try to find her friend as the nightclubs were nearby but she could not find her and returned home.

As she was coming near her apartment in Centaur Street, she noticed a man behind her and started walking faster before starting to run but the man ran after her. Just outside the door to her apartment complex, he attacked her. He punched and kicked her as she lay on the ground and tried to pull down her trouser bottoms. 

She told him she didn’t have anything valuable on her, just €10, her keys and her phone. 

“I was crying and he just hit my head and everything fell to the ground and I knew I was in trouble and he started punching”. 

The court heard he punched and kicked her as she lay on the ground and tried to pull down her trouser bottoms and when she fell unconscious, Keogh went away. She awoke and flagged a taxi driver, who called the gardai.

When gardai arrived, Ms Kowalczyk said she would not go to hospital in an ambulance until gardai checked that her fiancée was alright because she believed the attacker had the keys and codes to her apartment. 

Ms Kowalczyk, who stepped outside the courtroom while CCTV footage of the attack on her was played, fought back tears as she told of the attack and of how her “second nightmare” began when gardai kept asking her did she know her attacker.

She said she repeatedly replied she did not but officers started saying you “cannot protect your him (her fiancée) anymore”. She felt very frustrated as no one appeared to be listening to her.

The court heard that after cautioning Mr Jennings inside the apartment, gardai brought him out on to the street where they arrested him for breach of the peace and being drunk and disorderly. He was also pepper sprayed before he was put on the ground and handcuffed and brought to the garda station.

His counsel said in the garda station, he requested medical attention for his eyes but he was only taken out to a yard and hosed with water in his eyes.

The case continues before Mr Justice Bernard Barton and a jury.

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