28 Jun 2022

Garda off work for six weeks after Longford bite incident

Longford Courthouse.

A garda was forced to take six weeks off work after a woman she was in the process of transferring to Granard garda station suddenly bit her, a court has been told

A garda was forced to take six weeks off work after a woman she was in the process of transferring to Granard garda station suddenly bit her, a court has been told.

Sacha Hibbs (25), of Ballinturley, Ballinaheglish, Co Roscommon, pleaded guilty at last week’s sitting of Longford District Court to assaulting Garda Linda O’Connell contrary to Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

That incident, it was revealed, occurred on September 28 2019 while Ms Hibbs was being transported to Longford garda station following an alleged public order incident.

Sgt Mark Mahon, for the State, said Ms Hibbs had been arrested as a result of that earlier incident when the alleged bite took place inside a garda patrol car.

“(She) became violent in the rear of the car and bit Garda O’Connell on her wrist,” he said.

“Garda O’Connell attended hospital and was treated in relation to the bite. As a consequence of this bite she was off work for in excess of six weeks.

“She received numerous medical appointments as a result of the bite and certain distress was caused to the garda in awaiting medical reports.”

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In defence, solicitor Frank Gearty said his client had previously entered a guilty plea to the aforementioned public order incident and was under the impression no further action was to enacted by the prosecution.

“This offence happened in September 2019 and she came before the court facing public order charges associated with the arrest and in good faith entered a plea of guilty and never knew there was going to be this additional charge brought,” he said.

“She would have appreciated if it was dealt with at the time.”

Mr Gearty said Ms Gibbs in no way trying to evade justice but was slightly aggrieved that she was being made to return to court for a second time after pleading guilty to public order in December 2020.

“We were aware of the allegation of the bite and very anxious naturally about it,” he said. “She has apologised to the garda and she is really annoyed with herself that she did this and she offered her own blood, so the process has been ongoing for quite some time and she is pleading guilty and she would have appreciated if it was all done at the one time.”

Presiding Judge Bernadette Owens was told Ms Gibbs had one previous conviction to her name, dating back to January 2017 from a prosecution taken before Galway District Court.

Asked by Judge Owens if he had a chance to run his eye over Garda O’Connell’s victim impact statement, Mr Gearty said he hadn’t but was aware of its findings.

He also told of how Ms Gibbs had endured a trying upbringing having lost her father to tragic circumstances during the early part of her childhood.

“She was reared in Tallaght in Dublin and she came to Roscommon with her mum and dad,” he said.

“Her dad died in a house fire when she was aged six and had a huge impact on her life. She still lives at home. She went to college in Galway where she studied hairdressing and then she became pregnant.”

He also referred to how Ms Gibbs had been the victim of a “deeply personal and traumatic” episode at just 13-years-of-age, something which had impacted her in a negative fashion.

“She (Ms Hibbs) reckons there is a level of anger that she has had to come to terms with and acknowledge and unfortunately after quite a sharp arrest which was referred to in the questions and answers session with gardaí she was angry when Garda O’Connell tried to bring Sasha into custody,” added Mr Gearty.

“Very regretfully Sasha bit Garda O’Connell and she regrets from the word go and went in and made contact with the Gardaí the next day.”

Mr Gearty said Ms Hibbs was in receipt of Lone Parents Allowance and a nominal weekly sum for hairdressing, an occupation she was particularly keen on.

He said his client was willing to offer up some form of compensation in an effort to show her remorse to both Garda O’Connell and the court.

“She has cooperated fully with the health checks that followed the matter and in relation to compensation if required she would make a modest offer of compensation,” he added.

“I don’t want to trespass on what the situation maybe within the Gardaí but there may be a course being available that could be followed in relation to the injury that was caused.”

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In delivering her ruling, Judge Owens said the case which illustrated one of the glaring anomalies in the local judicial system.

“This is a case that highlights to me that it is unfortunate in District 9 that we don’t have any restorative justice scheme for here and I think there are cases that are suitable for restorative justice,” she said.

Judge Owens, as a result, directed a probation report to be carried out on Ms Hibbs and said she would be seeking compensation to the tune of €750 to be handed in.

The case was ultimately adjourned to October 25 next.

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