A DISTRICT Court judge has queried if the abuse of gardaí by members of the public is becoming an ‘epidemic of disrespect’ and said that if it is a trend, then it needs to be ‘reversed’ immediately.
Judge James McNulty made the comments at Clonakilty District Court last week, when dealing with a public order incident where he heard gardaí in Clonakilty were verbally abused by a young woman from Cork city visiting the town after a day spent at a beach.
Chloe Wilkinson of 9 Dunmanus Park, Knocknaheeny, Cork city pleaded guilty to using or engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, as well as refusing to give her name and address to gardaí.
Sgt Paul Kelly told the court that on Sunday July 10th last Gda Shane Gray came across the defendant on Kent Street while he was dealing with another person.
‘She approached the patrol car and became very aggressive and was waving her hands and started shouting “f*** off, ye f***ing pigs.” She was very drunk and refused to give her name or address and continued to be abusive until she was arrested and conveyed to Clonakilty Garda Station,’ said Sgt Kelly.
The court heard that Ms Wilkinson has no previous convictions but received the benefit of the Probation Act in 2019 for public order offences.
Judge McNulty queried why she approached the patrol car in the first place, but was told that the person gardaí had been talking to may have been a relation of hers. Defence solicitor Conrad Murphy said his client, who has a young daughter, had rang the garda station the following day to apologise for her behaviour and was extremely embarrassed about what happened.
‘She came down to Clonakilty and was at the beach during the day and had alcohol and got very drunk. She does realise she was previously treated leniently in court and to say she is embarrassed is an understatement,’ said Mr Murphy.
Judge McNulty said this is one of a number of cases that he has heard in recent months where citizens engage in ‘vulgar abuse or threatening words and language’ to police officers on duty.
‘I wonder is it an epidemic of disrespect or is it indicative of disrespect? She had no business engaging with them and it was none of her business,’ said Judge McNulty.
‘If someone abused her on the street using foul and vulgar language, how would she feel?’
He added that it’s something that needs to be addressed.
‘If it’s a trend then it needs to be reversed.’
Judge McNulty added that it will cost her money this time as she had been treated leniently before and should have learned her lesson. He said if it was to be dealt with leniently then people would see that there are no consequences for this behaviour and therefore no deterrent.
Judge McNulty convicted her on the public order charge and deferred penalty, provided she has €500 in court on October 4th.
He also adjourned the charge of not giving her name and address to gardaí to the same date, and said that a free legal aid application can also be made that day.