Cleared: Lar Corbett
Tipperary hurler Lar Corbett, who was accused of a public intoxication offence, had the case against him dismissed at Thurles District Court as the Judge said the prosecution had not reached the threshold of evidence required for a conviction.
Mr Corbett, of 54 Willowmere Drive, Thurles, was charged with being intoxicated to such an extent as to be a danger to himself and to others at Parnell Street, Thurles, in the early hours of July 13, 2018.
Garda Joseph Walsh told Judge Elizabeth MacGrath that he and Garda Ivor Whyte had decided to carry out a liquor licence inspection on Lar Corbett’s pub in Parnell Street. Garda Walsh said he could hear a “sizeable crowd” inside the pub, and there was a “jovial atmosphere”. He knocked on the door to gain access. He could hear people “hushed” inside and Garda Walsh went around the pub “for over an hour”.
At about 3.40am, Garda Walsh was standing “3 to 4 doors” down when he saw a man “quickly open and shut” a door at the pub, and that man, known to him as Lar Corbett, “peered out.” Mr Corbett, the proprietor of the pub, came from the front door, and he was observed “walking hurriedly from the footstep to the main road.”
Garda Walsh said, from his view, Mr Corbett “did not look left or right” as he walked across the street.
“I walked across,” and “we interacted with Mr Corbett.” Garda Walsh said he told Mr Corbett the Gardaí were there for a long time doing a liquor inspection, and Mr Corbett responded: “What are you talking about?” There was a smell of alcohol from Mr Corbett’s breath, said Garda Walsh.
“We tried to engage with Mr Corbett. He attempted to push past us two or three times,” said Garda Walsh. “He was unsteady on his feet. He informed us ‘I have no keys. I am walking home.’” Garda Walsh said he formed the opinion that Mr Corbett was intoxicated to such an extent as to be a danger to himself and to others, and arrested him, and placed him in handcuffs. Mr Corbett was placed in the patrol car and conveyed to Thurles Garda Station. Garda Walsh said that Mr Corbett was “still intoxicated” in the station, so they charged him later that day, at about 7.30am.
Garda Ivor Whyte gave evidence that, in his view, it was “not safe” for Mr Corbett to continue heading towards the direction of Semple Stadium.
Solicitor Mr Brian Hughes, asked if it was normal to “try to talk some sense to someone first” before arresting them, and “to try to convince them to go home.”
Mr Hughes said there was no other person in the vicinity. Mr Corbett co-operated with Gardaí by presenting his hands, including two broken fingers which were strapped, to be handcuffed, maintained Mr Hughes. “He turned back to you, despite two fingers being strapped from a hurling injury.” “I don’t recall that,” said Garda Whyte.
“He tried to walk through us, using his shoulder,” said the Garda.
Mr Hughes put it to Garda Whyte that Lar Corbett “was not drunk”, and that when he left the premises Mr Corbett was “accosted by Gardaí” who had “no good reason to use handcuffs”, and Mr Corbett was placed under arrest and kept for four hours “for no good reason.”
“That’s totally inaccurate,” responded Garda Whyte.
Garda Whyte said he had a “crystal clear” recollection of the night. Mr Corbett was “uncooperative at all times” and he “slurred his words,” and there was a smell of intoxicating liquor from his breath. “He was visibly frustrated and tried to push past us using his shoulders.”
“He asked you was he free to go and he was told ‘yes he was’”, said Mr Hughes. When he asked a second time, he was told he was “under arrest.”
“Those words were never spoken,” said Garda Whyte. Garda Whyte maintained that Mr Corbett did not present himself to be handcuffed, but did not struggle during the incident.
Mr Hughes showed CCTV footage of the incident to the Court. “This was an ambush, effectively, wasn’t it,” Mr Hughes said. “I would not say that,” said Garda Whyte.
Mr Hughes put it to the Gardaí that they had said Mr Corbett was “visibly drunk.” “How do you square that with what you saw on the screen, with the evidence you gave?”
Mr Corbett was “accosted” as he crossed Parnell Street, maintained Mr Hughes. “He came out the doorway. He was immediately arrested by An Garda Síochána.” It was “not the case” that Mr Corbett was uncooperative or that he tried to push past Gardaí.
There was no evidence that Mr Corbett staggered, instead he walked “remarkably calmly” back to the patrol car.
“You said he was staggering and uncooperative. I have to put it to you that that is completely untrue,” Mr Hughes told Gardaí. It was not necessary to place Mr Corbett in handcuffs, and it was clear he was not “obstreperous in any way”. “He was not drunk as to be a danger to himself and to others.”
“I believe he was,” said Garda Whyte. The CCTV evidence showed that Gardaí could be seen “with our own eyes” encountering Lar Corbett as he exited the pub, and “shunted” him across the roadway, maintained Mr Hughes.
“This is outrageous behaviour,” said Mr Hughes. “I have never seen the likes of it. Mr Corbett was treated atrociously, and unlawfully arrested and kept in a Garda Station for no good reason.”
Judge MacGrath said the charge was a ‘danger to himself and to others’. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove their case, and not the defence. The incident occurred in Parnell street, a public place. There was no issue of there being another person to endanger, so it comes down to Mr Corbett being a ‘danger to himself’.
There was no audio on the CCTV, but the Gardaí did give their assessment of Mr Corbett.
In view of the totality of the evidence, the “net impression” from the evidence was that the threshold has not been met whereby there was a ‘reasonable apprehension’ that Corbett was a danger to himself, and as such it was “unsafe to convict”. Judge MacGrath dismissed the charge against Mr Corbett.
Judge MacGrath added that the Gardaí have a right to carry out surveillance, and some of Mr Hughes’ comments relating to the Gardaí were “unreasonable.”
Mr Hughes said Gardaí are entitled to carry out surveillance, “but not entitled to treat citizens in that manner.”