‘Garda broke my nose’: Portlaoise businessman claims assault and further intimidation by local cops
2019-01-01 11:57:23 -


By Chinedu Onyejelem


A black African man has accused a garda based in Portlaoise of assaulting him while he returned home from a party in Co Laois.

Local businessman Joe Collins, who owns Joekinns Superstore and DJ’s Afro Restaurant in the town, claims he was punched twice in the face in the altercation on the night of 1 December 2018.

The alleged incident occurred when Collins was being driven in a Garda car following his arrest for a public order offence.

Collins claims that he was told to “shut the f**k up” and punched twice in the face for asking why he was being arrested and handcuffed.

Describing the evening to Metro Éireann, Collins – who moved to Portlaoise in 2016 – said it has left him devastated, depressed and in fear of his life.

“About 10 pm on Saturday 1 December, my partner dropped me to a friend’s birthday party in Mountmellick. The party was noisy and at a stage I decided to go home so that I would go to Church in the morning.

“I saw a friend that was going my way and I asked him for a lift which he agreed to. This was between 11.30pm and midnight.

“About 10 minutes’ drive away from the party a Garda car drove past us. We noticed that it turned around and came after us. The gardaí used their blue light to stop us.

“Both my driver friend and myself came out of the vehicle. While the garda driver was talking to my driver friend, I could hear [the garda] asking whether he was drinking and he answered ‘No’.

Collins says the other of two garda questioned him about where he was coming from and where he was headed.

However, when he answered “[the garda] immediately told me to ‘shut up’. I said to him ‘You asked me a question and I am answering you nicely. Why are you asking me to shut up?’ Then he told me to ‘shut the f**k up’.”

Collins says the garda told him he would be arrested if he said a word again. “I asked him ‘Why would you arrest me? What have I done wrong?’ He then said: ‘You are arrested.’” Collins claims he was tightly handcuffed behind his back before being put in the back of the Garda car and driven off.

Five minutes into the drive, Collins says he asked repeatedly why he was being arrested, which allegedly prompted the arresting garda to give him “two punches [in] my face” causing him to pass out.

Coming to on arrival at Portlaoise Garda Station, Collins says he “noticed that I was bleeding and my clothes were bloody. On getting inside the station, I told the garda in charge [about the alleged incident]. Despite the fact that I was bleeding, I was put in the police cell which was unlocked.” Collins says he was in “serious pain” but his request for an ambulance to take him to hospital was not acted upon for several hours.

“The gardaí were arguing [among] themselves,” he adds, explaining that the situation only changed when he was later recognised. “Then the sergeant came and told me [the incident] would be investigated.”

Later on, two different gardaí took Collins to Portlaoise General Hospital, where he said an x-ray confirmed a broken nose. He says he refused stitches to the cut on his face to avoid scarring.

After discharge from the hospital, Collins says he was returned to the garda station where he refused to sign a bail bond and said he wanted to go to court that morning to plead his case. He claims gardaí then put pressure on his partner to convince him to sign the bond. While she refused, he later signed the bail bond on the advice of his solicitor, and to his surprise was immediately handed a charge document for a public order offence.

In the weeks since the alleged assault, Collins says he has been gradually recovering. He has been receiving outpatient treatment at Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, where his nose “was pushed back to its former position and they have given me time to see if [it] will stay there or require surgery”.

While he is disappointed with his alleged treatment by Portlaoise gardaí, he added that he is even more concerned that they made further efforts to  prevent him from making his claims public.

Collins says a protest he planned for 7 December and publicised on social media prompted a call to a friend from the local superintendent, asking for “a peaceful way of resolving the issue”, but he refused.

It was then alleged by the same friend that if he went ahead with his planned protest, the gardaí “might bring a fireman to close down my business or plant something there”.

Collins claims this same friend went online to announce the protest as cancelled without his permission, though it ultimately went ahead peacefully.

But the situation has not gone without further incident, as Collins claims efforts are being made to victimise him in the town and to close down his businesses, citing a surprise fire inspection with a Garda presence at midnight on 22 December.

Metro Éireann understands that the allegation has been reported to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) for investigation.

When contacted for a response by Metro Éireann, the Garda replied: “We have no record currently of any incidents on the dates and locations outlined.”


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