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Barrister Leo Mulrooney to ex-Sgt James Gill: “Complete the now well-known phrase 'Give me your name and address or I'll...' “
Last Friday saw retired Sgt James Gill awarded €33,000 plus legal costs by Judge Margaret Heneghan for a defamation case that he took against prominent Shell to Sea campaigner Pat O'Donnell. Mr Gill claimed that Mr O'Donnell accused him at a protest at Bellanaboy on November 3rd 2006, while other protesters and gardaí were in the area, of stealing diesel and smuggling tyres across the border. Mr O'Donnell denied saying those comments to Gill but the Judge believe the word of Gill and made the award.
James Gill is the Garda Sergeant that made the infamous comment “Give me your name and address or I'll rape you” which was recorded last March 31st (https://www.indymedia.ie/../article/99445)
However James Gill is also the Garda with probably the longest and most involved history of any of the Gardaí that have policed the Corrib Gas Project. He sat on the Shell's Project Monitoring Committee for 5 years, his brother's scaffolding firm AGS was employed by Shell and I have personally witnessed him viciously assault campaigners on a number of occasions. I wish that I didn't feel the need to write this negative article about a Garda who doesn't police for Shell anymore, but that thisman's good name was valued at €33,000 is an absolute disgrace.
What happened in Court
Last Wednesday saw the hearing of the case. In the case Mr Gill claimed that Mr O'Donnell had accused him of being a thief but this was denied by Mr O'Donnell. Mr O'Donnell said that on the morning in question he had engaged in banter with other protesters and had referenced diesel which had been stolen from him previously in 97 or 98. Mr O'Donnell claimed that he had said that it's easier for people to steal diesel because all the Gardaí were up protecting Shell. He also said that he had said that the Gardaí uphold the law one day and break it the next, referring to the fact that the Gardaí were being well-behaved that day as there was politicians present but that other days they would beat up the protestors. Mr O'Donnell denied that any of this was directed at Mr Gill specifically.
In evidence Mr Gill stated that after Mr O'Donnell had made the comments that other protesters began making similar comments and that this has caused him a lot of stress. He felt that his credibility had been undermined, and that the comments would “sully his reputation” and felt it would hurt his children,“if their father was named a thief”. He stated that a gastric ulcer which he had had previously had been exasperated as a result of the comments and that he ended up with symptoms of Post traumatic stress disorder.
Under cross-examination from Mr O'Donnell barrister Leo Mulrooney, Mr Gill stated that this defamation case was not about money, that it was about his reputation. Twice in his cross-examination Mr Mulrooney attempted to introduce element of the infamous 'rape-tape', of which Mr Gill was the main player. First of all Mr Mulrooney attempted to ask Mr Gillif he had ever had discussions with other Gardaí on how to present evidence in court. This was a rather obscure reference to the 'rape-tape', which only someone who had listened to the 'rape-tape' would have seen where it was going. However obviously Judge Heneghan had done her homework, immediately shutting down that line of questioning saying that only relevant matters were to be discussed.
For his second attempt later on, Mr Mulrooney tried a more direct approach asking Mr Gill to complete the well-known phrase 'Give me your name and address or I'll...' “. However Mr Gill feigned ignorance and in a most blatant lie stated that he didn't know what Mr Mulrooney was talking about. Mr Mulrooney then asked if Mr Gill was serious that he didn't know what was being spoken about seeing as it had been front page news for a week and had been raised in the Dáil a number of times. At this Mr Gill's barrister Seamus Ruane jumped to his feet objecting, stating that if Mr Mulrooney was referring to the events of the 31stof March then they had no relevance to the case that was being tried. Mr Mulrooney argued that the subject being spoken about was of absolute relevance in ascertaining Mr Gill's good reputation.It was then that Judge Margaret Heneghan interjected and sided with Mr Gill's barrister. Judge Heneghan first of all seemed to be under the impression that a tribunal of inquiry was being held into the 'rape-tape' controversy and that the events therefore shouldn't be spoken about. Mr Mulrooney informed the Judge that there was no tribunal of inquiry into the matter but rather a Garda Ombudsman investigation into the case, regarding which the Ombudsman had already stated no criminal prosecutions would arise. However Judge Hennegan was adamant that no mention of this case would be allowed in her court-room, saying it would be “entirely unwise” for that discussion to continue. Mr Mulrooney pushed further asking “Were you recording speaking about raping Shell to Sea protesters”, however Judge Hennegan then got angrier saying “we're moving on” and “how many more times do I need to say 'No' “. She then didn't seem to know what to do as Mr Mulrooney continued arguing that he should have to right to put these very relevant questions to Mr Gill. Judge Hennegan at different times said that she would rise and take a 5 minute break, she was going to discontinue the case and that she was going to adjourn the case. Eventually however Mr Mulrooney decided that he was going to move on when it became clear that Judge Hennegan wasn't for turning. Mr Mulrooney next asked Mr Gill “Do you believe that you have a good reputation in the community” to which Mr Gill replied “I do,Judge”.
Then evidence was heard from Dr.Callanan a psychologist that stated that Mr Gill suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that he would have avoided any triggers or stimuli that would have led to this.
Then evidence was heard from Mr Gill's GP, Dr. Nolan and also from retired Garda Greg Burke, Garda John Sweeney and Garda Hugh McNulty backing up to various extents Mr Gill's version of what was said. During the hearing it came out that Pat O'Donnell had had a complaint into the Garda Ombudsman in which he claimed that Garda John Sweeney (SL286) had been involved in breaking 3 of his ribs but this investigation had led nowhere. It also came up that Pat O'Donnell had put in a complaint regarding getting 2 upper-cuts in the face by either Gill or another named Guard. This had supposedly been investigated by the Garda Complaints Board (before the Ombudsman was set-up) but had gone nowhere. Currently there is a civil case being pursued in relation to this incident.
For the defence, evidence was given by Pat O'Donnell, Patrick Coyle and PJ Moran. All confirmed that there was a conversation about diesel but that none of this had been directed at Sgt. Gill. In his evidence Patrick Coyle stated that “It amuses me, why Gill did take it up like that”.
In closing submissions Mr Mulrooney argued that the plantiff hadn't established the probability that the words as alleged were said at all. He also argued that even if the Judge decided that the words had been spoken as alleged that anyone listening to the words (either protesters or Gardaí) wouldn't have attached any real truth to the words. Finally he stated that the causal link between the alleged words and the physical and psychological illness that Mr Gill suffered hadn't been established.
The JudgementOn Friday (9th December),Judge Margaret Heneghan gave her judgement, in which she basically didn't explain any of her reasoning behind the award. She just stated that she was satisfied the words as alleged were spoken by Pat O'Donnell and that they had caused damage to the character and reputation of Mr Gill. She awarded Mr Gill €27,500 in damages and€5,500 in aggravated damages as well as awarding him legal costs.
ReflectionThis is obviously not an unbiased court-report on all that happened. I couldn't do that, because I've known retired Sgt James Gill for a few years and view him as an embittered man, who I've witnessed using violence on campaigner's specifically to cause them pain (myself included). However looking over at him just before the judgment was read out, I couldn't help but think how the Corrib Gas project has ruined this man also. He sat with his head bowed, shoulders hunched and arms folded obviously not a happy man, he had just one ex-Garda colleague and his wife in the court for support, and looked very lonely. Even after the judgement was read out, there was no discernible change in demeanor.
After the court case I don't doubt that Mr Gill suffers from stress, probably most of which stems from his involvement in policing Corrib. However, there is no doubt about it but that Gill got extremely well paid for his time on Corrib. He would have definitely have been in the group of 5 Gardaí in 2008 who got €325,000 between them in over-time for policing Corrib (http://www.westernpeople.ie/news/eycwsnojkf/). Also Mr Gill always had the choice, if he so chose, not to come back working on policing Corrib. It isn't logical what was argued in court, that he had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and still continued policing Corrib protests until April 2011 (where he would regularly see Pat O'Donnell, whose supposed magic words caused all his woes). If he is alleging that he had PTSD while he was policing Corrib then how could it be argued that he would have possibly been able to treat Corrib campaigner with proper respect? And of course this raises the question how many other of the Gardaí that have and continue to police Corrib have similar mental health issues revolving around Corrib campaigners?
In the Frontline Human Rights Defenders report on Corrib which was published in 2010, here was what was said about Gardaí who've been dealing with Corrib for too long
“Some Gardaí have been working on the Corrib gas dispute for ten years.That is stressful for them, and also impairs their ability to do other community policing work if it involves protesters. That is because many protesters distrust the police. Some have suggested that they would not now report any ordinary concerns that they might have,such as a burglary. It is recommended that Gardaí who have been involved for long periods in policing work on the Corrib gas dispute be deployed to other duties, such as community policing.”
As with seemingly all of the recommendations from that report it has gone ignored.
Gill's ability to leave the cause of his stress is in marked contrast with the local community, who have been brutalised both mentally and physically by the Shell and Garda occupation of their area. Keith Swanick, a doctor based in Belmullet was quoted at last years Bord Pleanala Oral hearing as having said“half the people I’m seeing now from Glengad are suffering from stress and worry.” . A good analysis of some of the stresses being felt by local people can be read in that submission by Michael McCaughan http://www.shelltosea.com/content/now-you-are-talking-m...guage.
In Lorna Siggins' book “Once upon a Time in the West”, she writes of a local woman who suffered a miscarriage in the immediate aftermath of the Pollathomais Pier incident in June 2007, which her husband had been involved in. Mr Gill was heavily involved in the Garda actions of that day, which led to 20 people being injured.
I've also personally witnessed another incident which took place on June 2009, in which Gill viciously kicked out at a protester who was going past him, causing that protester to fall and tear his hand on barbed wire (photos of this incident attached). I've heard many other rumours about Gill both at Corrib protests and unrelated to the protest at all and he seems to me to have an uncanny ability to make people forcibly dislike him.
I've been in a court-room where this question was actually put to Gill by a solicitor, 'Do you deny the allegation that you are a scumbag?' Obviously he denied it but even for a solicitor to think about putting that question to Garda Sergeant says something (http://www.indymedia.ie/article/93381).
In this short clip from the Pipe http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/1221258968/ID=1590885523, if you go to 1:15 you can hear Pat O'Donnell say “What you do that for” directed at Sgt Gill and also Pat O'Donnell pointing at Gill again straight after.
The State – Impossible to Embarrass?I had presumed that there was no way this case would actually be going ahead in court. First of all I presumed that it would be too embarrassing for Mr Gill. Even before the rape tape, the thought of him arguing for his reputation, was slightly hard to fathom, after the rape-tape I thought it'd be impossible.However Mr Gill and his lawyers must somehow have been absolutely certain that the “rape-tape” would not be allowed to be brought up in court. How could they possibly have been so certain?
It was another brief moment of eye-opening clarity on how sick our country is, to see the way that Judge Margaret Heneghan stopped the “rape-tape” being even raised with James Gill. She was one of the final judicial appointments made by Fianna Fail in January 2010. It was breathtaking to see this new, relatively young Judge pretend to delude herself and the rest of people listening, that there was some good reason to stop the Sergeant who made the worse of the “rape-tape” comments, explain himself.
Where are we going as a country, when this is the conduct of the latest recruits to the judicial system? This is the kind of self-imposed blindness and dishonesty that allowed the industrial school and clerical child abuse to happen in the first place and then to continue for so long.
Finally I thought the State might find it too embarrassing to hear this case, and then certainly to actually award damages to Gill. On one side, you have a brave and incorruptible fisherman and campaigner with strong beliefs, whose story has now been seen by thousands of people in The Pipe. On the other side, you have a senior Garda who has got very well paid while acting as a puppet for a foreign multinational for many years, who has beaten up peaceful protesters and who has been publicly ridiculed for threatening rape.
Judge Margaret Heneghan gave that ex-Garda, €33,000 for damage to his name.
This State feels no shame.