A retired garda, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder following a gun siege in Ramelton, 19 years ago, has been awarded €50,000 compensation.
Mr Justice Bernard Barton said the incident, in which shots had been fired over the heads of some gardaí, had “sparked off” a set of emotions in Garda Pat Cavanagh as he had never experienced throughout all of his service on the Northern Ireland border during “the troubles.”
Barrister Desmond Dockery, counsel for Cavanagh, told the court that although he had dealt with numerous incidents involving fatalities, Mr Cavanagh had not previously been psychologically affected by them.
Mr Dockery said Garda Cavanagh had been treated for mild to moderate PTSD.
Mr Cavanagh, now aged 62, told a Garda Compensation hearing in the High Court that two members of the public who had been onlookers to the gun siege in St Mary’s Terrace, Ramelton, had been injured when hit by pellets from shots fired over the heads of gardaí.
He told Mr Dockery he joined other gardaí at a shooting incident in St Mary’s Terrace in which there had been a serious assault involving two brothers. One of them who had been badly beaten up had been taken to hospital by ambulance.
He had donned a flak jacket and had approached a house in which the other brother had locked himself inside. A shot had been fired into the front door from inside as he approached and he realised the position of gardaí surrounding the house had become extremely precarious.
Mr Cavanagh told the court there had been threats against the gardaí of “blowing them away,” “removing them for good” and “blowing their heads off.”
He said pellets from two shots fired over the heads of gardaí had struck onlookers and they were quickly directed to leave the area. A stand-off situation had developed but some time later gardaí, who had gained entrance from an upstairs rear window, emerged with two shotguns, a cartridge belt and a box of live cartridges and spent shells. A man had been arrested.
The retired garda told Mr Dockery the incident had deeply affected him and he afterwards became very upset, anxious, sleepless and irritable and suffered from nightmares and flashbacks. He had retired from An Garda Siochana in 2011.
Mr Cavanagh said he had been told by a medical expert that the best way for him to deal with his problems was continuing to work through them. He believed the St Mary’s Terrace siege had sparked off a cumulative reaction to many of the traumatic incidents he had experienced throughout his career.
Awarding him €50,000 compensation and legal costs, Judge Barton said it would be entirely wrong to assume that, simply because Mr Cavanagh had continued to serve the gardaí and the community, he had not been badly affected as the court accepted he had been.