Limerick solicitor denies head butt in court

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

A JUDGE has said there’s a “sad and unfortunate” history between two well-known criminal solicitors in Limerick, who have appeared before the court for a second week in a row regarding an assault.

A JUDGE has said there’s a “sad and unfortunate” history between two well-known criminal solicitors in Limerick, who have appeared before the court for a second week in a row regarding an assault.

Judge Patrick Clyne marked the facts proven in the case against solicitor John Devane, 50, who has a practice at Quinlan Street in Limerick.

He pleaded not guilty to assaulting colleague John Herbert, from Ahane, on June 9, 2011, in the vicinity of Limerick courthouse.

Last week Mr Devane had another case of alleged assault against Mr Herbert dismissed before a different judge. However, the latest charge against Mr Devane, who has no previous convictions, will be disposed of once he pays a €1,000 donation to Saint Vincent de Paul by the end of the month.

Mr Herbert alleged that he was approached by Mr Devane near the custody area in the district court that Thursday afternoon, when Devane extended his hand to him and asked him to ‘forget about what happened’ the previous week, in reference to the earlier altercation.

Mr Herbert said he told him in a dismissive manner, ‘forget it’, as he did not believe that Mr Devane’s request was genuine. The pair left the court-room and were standing in the hallway where it was alleged that Mr Devane attempted to head-butt his colleague and grabbed him by the throat.

Mr Herbert claimed he kept his hands in his trouser pockets throughout the entire incident, as he was attempting to exercise self-discipline.

Mr Devane claimed that Mr Herbert’s reply to his offer was “Go f*** yourself”, which was denied by Mr Herbert.

He said when he dismissed Mr Devane’s offer, the defendant said: “I’ll have you done. I’ll see to it myself.”

Mr Herbert said he took the alleged threat “very seriously”, and said Mr Devane made these remarks in “deliberate hushed tones” in the court-room, which would not have been audible to others and were not picked up by the recorded audio system in the court.

Mr Herbert, a 6ft former champion heavyweight, said: “I had to leave the area because my discipline was beginning to slip. I went outside the door and drew in as much air as I could.”

One of the main witnesses in the case, Paul O’Dwyer, who was standing in the area outside the court, said he saw Mr Devane “tap” Mr Herbert with his face, to which Mr Herbert said “Go on” and Mr Devane replied “I’d love to.”

When he saw Mr Devane making a complaint to the gardai about the incident – after he saw Devane put his hand to Herbert’s throat – he said he found it “comical”.

“From what I had seen I thought it was disgraceful; a joke,” said Mr O’Dwyer.

He said Mr Herbert appeared very cool and calm throughout the entire episode, and stood bolt upright “like an Iceman”.

In the witness box, Mr Devane, who has been a practising solicitor in Limerick for 15 years, said he does not have a good relationship with Mr Herbert.

He produced his ‘Daily Reflections’ book in court, which is used by people attending Alcoholics Anonymous, and which he said guided him to make amends with Mr Herbert.

He said he wanted to be able to “pass in and out of the district court freely, without any intimidation from Herbert.”

Mr Devane said he has never threatened anyone, and “wouldn’t be able to fight my way out of a paper bag”.

He said Mr Herbert had his arms up in a way that he thought he was going to be attacked.

“I’m John Devane, the pacificist, not John Devane, the champion boxer.”

He said he put his hand to Mr Herbert’s shoulder, or the base of his neck, to push him away, but denied he grabbed him by the throat.

His defence, Keith Spencer, BL, said Mr Herbert’s claims were “simply incredible”, “a nonsense” and maintained that he was “over egging the pudding” in relation to the alleged threat. He noted that some of Mr Herbert’s claims were also not disclosed in his evidence to gardai. He applied to have the case struck out due to inconsistencies in the testimonies, but this was refused by the judge.

In concluding the case, Judge Patrick Clyne said: “Of course there’s a history here, it’s unfortunate, it’s sad, but it’s there.” In spite of the inconsistencies in a number of testimonies, he said he had to find in favour of the State, but did not wish to proceed to a conviction.

He noted the matter has received considerable attention, but said: “I want this matter finished. It’s a sad day before the court.”

The donation is due to be paid by October 18 next.