25 Jun 2022

Two jailed after violent Longford stand-off that left gardaí fearing for their lives

Two jailed after violent Longford stand-off that left gardaí fearing for their lives

Two jailed after violent Longford stand-off that left gardaí fearing for their lives

A garda has told a court how he and a colleague had been left in fear of their lives after being told they would be killed during a violent stand off with a crowd of ten to 15 people in Co Longford last year.

Sgt David Bunn told a sitting of Longford District Court this afternoon of how an incident on April 24, 2020 involving siblings Pierre Stokes (20) and Chantelle Stokes (19), Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford still lived with him to this day.

Sgt Bunn said he and colleague Garda Brian Carroll had been assisting officers from Granard Garda District in the area with a series of searches in the area when they came across Ms Stokes in the company of another male who appeared to have an item concealed in his pocket.

He said when the male attempted to flee, Garda Carroll gave chase and caught up with the man, Ms  Stokes tried to pull his colleague off the suspect.

Moments later, the court heard a posse of men, women and young children emerged from a nearby house who hurled abuse and threatening remarks in the direction of both gardai.

Sgt Bunn said one of those to approach both himself and Garda Carroll was Mr Stokes.

"Pierre came out and, with a number of other males, threatened both myself and Garda Carroll that he would get us, hammer us and kill us," he said.

It was also revealed Garda Carroll had taken Ms Stokes phone during the course of the melee for evidential value, believing the incident had been recorded by the accused.

The court heard an emergency call for assistance was made, prompting both uniformed and officers from the Gardai's Armed Support Unit (ASU) to attend the scene.

Sgt Bunn said such was the volatile nature of the situation, he ordered Garda Carroll to return Ms Stokes' phone and advised against using pepper spray for fear it would be used against them.

Asked by Judge Seamus Hughes where he would rank the incident on a scale of one to ten in terms of unruly public order incidents, Sgt Bunn said the episode ranked in the "eight to nine" category.

In revealing how he had been a member of the Gardai for the past 17 years, Sgt Bunn said few, if any incidents, mirrored the sense of fear and trepidation he felt that day.

"Had the ASU not been in the area at the time, I'm not sure what would have happened," he said.

"It has certainly left a mark on me."

His colleague, Garda Carroll said he recalled Ms Stokes trying to pull him off the male suspect he had been trying to arrest, adding that her brother pulled off his jacket before shouting he would "hammer us" if he didn't release the man and return Ms Stokes' phone.

"I have worked in the cities but the likes of this has never happened to me before," he said.

In defence, Niall Flynn BL insisted both his clients had assaulted gardai on the day, claiming the evidence provided by both officers in the witness box was "substantially different" to what was contained in their statements.

Judge Hughes said the State had more than proven its case beyond any reasonable doubt, saying it was quite disturbing how two gardai, both with close to two decades of service, were still traumatised by the events of April 24 last.

"This type of conduct will not be tolerated in rural Ireland, he said in sentencing both to five months in jail for section two assaults on Garda Carroll.

A concurrent three month term was handed down for accompanying section 6 public order charges.

He fixed recognisances in the event of appeal with both ordered to lodge €250 each along with an independent surety of €1,000.

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