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Council staff, homes and families targeted in physical and verbal abuse

County Hall
County Hall, home of Louth County Council. Photo Credit: Adrian Crawley.

There have been seven physical assaults perpetrated on staff members of Louth County Council at council offices, the county dog pound and off-site in the last five years, coupled with an additional 38 instances of verbal abuse made towards council staff.

New figures obtained by LouthNow.ie, under the Freedom of Information Act, show that since 2015 there have been a total of seven instances of physical assaults officially lodged with the local authority. 38 cases of verbal abuse being made toward staff have been lodged in Health and Safety Section in the same time.

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With council offices closed for much of the yeah so far, there has just been one case of verbal abuse and one physical assault perpetrated on council staff so far in 2020. That is compared to seven instances of verbal abuse and no physical assaults in 2019 and 10 verbal abuse cases and one assault two years ago.

In incident reports seen by LouthNow.ie, one incident at the Louth County Council Dog Pound in Dromiskin saw a irate individual threaten to break windows at staff members’ homes and slash tyres on their cars. The report also stated the staff members would be ‘found laying on the road’ for not releasing his dog.

The report states the individual became threatening after being informed of the release fees and the necessity to produce a current dog license. The man in question said he would break into the pound to retrieve the dog and informed staff they should take his words as a ‘viable threat.’

Another incident, dated April 16 2018, saw a man call to the pound to to inquire about a dog that had been impounded after reports it was under weight and had been frequenting a derelict site. An allegation that the owner had no current license had also been made.

The man became aggressive and according to a staff member who filed the report, ‘thumped the counter glass so hard I expected it to shatter in on me’. The report states that when the staff member told the individual they had a lawful right to take the dog due to a lack of license and concerns over it’s weight, his ‘tryant [sic] of abuse continued for about 20 minutes in which he made personal references to my family and homes’ safety’

The man also said he would ‘pull this place down with a digger’. A vet subsequently confirmed the dog was clinically underweight.

The report also states that the staff member tried to contact Castlebellingham Garda Station but was unable to reach anyone. When they called Ardee Garda Station, they were told to try Castlebellingham again in 40 minutes time. There was no answer again.

Another incident, from March 2018, showed that a Louth County Council dog warden had been ‘considerably distressed’ by an altercation at a home in Drogheda when they attempted to impound a dog who allegedly had bitten a six-year-old girl. the dog warden reported experiencing pains in their chest and shoulder after the incident.

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Elsewhere,  a record of official complaints made against council staff across the last five years show there have been 15 such complaints lodged with the Corporate Services section of the local authority.

Housing section staff were the subject of five such complaints in that time – four complaints regarding their conduct, while one was in relation to their standard of customer service. There were three complaints lodged against members of the Customer Service team, one of which was related to their conduct.

Meanwhile, one complaint was made about staff in each of the following sections – Corporate, Infrastructure, Planning, Traffic Warden and School Warden – each in relation to their conduct. One official complaint was made in relation to service received at the Motor Tax office at County Hall in Dundalk while another complaint was made about two members of staff who were smoking outside the same building.

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