A MAN has been sentenced to six months in prison for assaulting his wife a day after a car in which he was driving was seized by gardai.
Garda Tony Miniter told Limerick District Court that Christopher O’Donnell appeared to be blaming Nora O’Donnell for the fact that the vehicle could not be returned to him.
O’Donnell, 26, of Hartigan’s Villas, Moyross, denied assaulting his now estranged wife at Mill Lane, adjacent to Henry Street garda station on July 25, 2012.
The car had been impounded the day before and Garda Miniter had requested production of the vehicle registration certificate in respect of the Toyota Avensis.
The tax book had been produced “with partly his details and partly Nora O’Donnell’s details written on it”, Garda Miniter said and he could not decide who the legitimate owner was. On telling the O’Donnells that the matter could be dealt with by way of a Police Property application, Christopher O’Donnell had become “quite irate”, Garda Miniter said.
The couple had left the garda station with their three children and Garda Miniter told Judge Aeneas McCarthy that he had followed as he was “worried for the safety of Nora O’Donnell”.
Mrs O’Donnell had got into the driver’s seat of another vehicle parked on Mill Lane, Christopher O’Donnell into the passenger seat. Garda Miniter said that as the car was pulling away he had seen Christopher O’Donnell strike out at his wife a number of times.
He could hear the accused “roaring and shouting” and when the car stopped at the end of the lane, Nora O’Donnell had run screaming from it.
John Herbert, solicitor for Christopher O’Donnell, said it would have been “impossible to have seen with any degree of clarity” what Garda Miniter had described.
The car had been moving away from Garda Miniter down a steep gradient, the car had head rests and there had been no evidence that the car had gone out of control as would have been the case if the driver was being assaulted, Mr Herbert said. His client would admit striking the dashboard but he had not hit Nora O’Donnell. The alleged injured party had had no marks on her face, he added.
Garda Minister insisted: “I saw what I saw” and pointed out that Nora O’Donnell had run screaming from the car “in a highly distressed state”.
Cross-examined by Sgt Donal Cronin, Christopher O’Donnell said he had only struck out at the dashboard.
“I had three massive rings on my fingers and one of them had a big point on it. That’s how I busted the stereo,” he said.
Asked why his wife had run to the gardai, Mr O’Donnell said “you’d have to ask her”.
Judge McCarthy said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that force had been used by Mr O’Donnell and that was sufficient in law to convict him for assault. He sentenced the accused to six months in prison.
Both Christopher and Nora O’Donnell made separate applications under the Police Property Act for the return of the car.
Nora O’Donnell said the car had been seized by Garda Miniter on July 24 because her estranged husband had been driving while disqualified.
“He was off the road for years. He was never going to drive it and I needed the car to drive the kids around,” Nora O’Donnell said.
But Christopher O’Donnell said there was “no law against buying a car if you are disqualified” and that he had intended to sign the car over to his father.
Asked why his signature appeared to have been tippexed over his wife’s in the tax book, Mr O’Donnell said he had not written over his wife’s name but was simply correcting mistakes. He was currently learning to read and write in prison and sometimes got “letters mixed up”, he said.
Both parties claimed to have paid for the car.
Judge McCarthy said that on the balance of probabilities he was happy to have the car released to Nora O’Donnell but put a stay on the order pending an appeal by Christopher O’Donnell.