October 19, 2013
Sean Hall arriving in court

Sean Hall arriving in court

GARDAI who arrested a former US air force engineer at his own home did so illegally, it was claimed in a court case yesterday.

Sean Hall, a 50-year-old retired mechanic, is suing Gardai alleging they breached his constitutional rights by arresting him on suspicion of causing criminal damage to the property.

Mr Hall claimed at Letterkenny Circuit Court yesterday that he was arrested despite legal advice given to Gardai beforehand that he was legally entitled to enter a home at which his wife had changed the locks.

The arrest took place on April 15 2009 in Gweedore, Co Donegal.

Mr Hall had returned to the area two days earlier after undergoing heart surgery in America.

He and his wife were having marital problems at the time and they hadn’t spoken for four months whilst he was in the USA.

However when he went to their house on April 13 the locks had been changed.

He was advised by Gardai that day to leave the area after Mrs Maria Hall called officers.

Two days later, he returned to the house and broke in through a window.

His solicitor Cormac Hartnett had called and faxed Gardai and Mrs Hall’s solicitor advising them that his client was legally entitled to return to the property.

At 8pm a stand-off occurred inside the house when Mr Hall barricaded himself inside a bedroom and refused to come out, Judge Petria McDonnell was told.

Gardai broke down the door, arrested Mr Hall and took him to Glenties Garda Station.

“They basically treated me like a criminal. They told me to open the f***ing door,” said Mr Hall.

“They put me in the cop car and it was overwhelming.”

He was released the next day and an ex-parte barring order was granted at the district court, an order later lifted and Mr Hall did later return to live at the house until his marriage of 20 years broke up.

Cormac Hartnett, Mr Hall’s solicitor, gave evidence and told the judge that he was “incredulous” that his client had been arrested despite phoning Gardai and faxing them. He had also faxed and phoned Mrs Hall’s solicitor.

Mr Hall claimed that he had recorded the incident on a mobile phone but when his personal belongings were returned one of his three phones was missing.

James O’Donnell, barrister for An Garda Siochana, strenuously denied this allegation, telling Mr Hall he had signed for his possessions and had never made a complaint about it.

Garda witnesses have yet to be called in the case.

The hearing was adjourned and will resume at Castlebar court on October 30.