Couple accused of abusing neighbours acquitted

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

AN ASKEATON couple who were accused of engaging in a “constant” campaign of verbal abuse and intimidation against their neighbour and her two teenage children has been thrown out of court.

AN ASKEATON couple who were accused of engaging in a “constant” campaign of verbal abuse and intimidation against their neighbour and her two teenage children has been thrown out of court.

Henry Blackwell, aged 31, of Lismakeera, Askeaton was accused of using threatening behaviour towards his neighbours on a number of dates in 2012, including accusations that he spat at them from a moving car and used slurs such as “you fat bulldozer” and “dirty smelly b******”.

His wife Margaret Blackwell, aged 32, was also accused of threatening a 16-year-old neighbour while carrying a knife in her hand on the street.

However the case against the couple, who denied all the accusations, was dismissed at Newcastle West court this Tuesday after the evidence against them was labelled as uncorroborated and contradictory.

A neighbour of the Blackwells, who cannot be named so as to protect the identity of her children, told the court that her family’s life “has been hell” and her children have been subjected to “verbal bullying” by the Blackwells “on a constant basis”.

The mother presented the court with a diary in which she had noted all the alleged incidents of abuse directed towards her and her children by the Blackwells.

The mother claimed that on April 22 she and her 14-year-old son were walking to a local fast food restaurant when Mr Blackwell drove past, “rolled down the window and spat out on top of us”.

The mother also claimed that at 9.30am on the morning of March 15 she was leaving her house with her children when Mr Blackwell, who was standing at his own door, called her “a fat bulldozer”.

The mother also alleged that on April 12, 2012 she had sent her 16-year-old daughter outside their home to switch off the mains water supply, following a water outage, when Mr Blackwell, who was on the street, heckled his daughter, calling her “you dirty smelly b******”.

The mother said that “other families have left the estate, because of bullying”, and said that the abuse has taken such a toll on her young son that “he has started self harming”.

Solicitor Kate Cussen, representing the Blackwells, put it to the mother that her clients deny that any of these incidents took place, and that there were discrepancies between the mother’s evidence in court, her diary and her written statements to gardai.

Ms Cussen said that in her original statement to gardai in May 2012 regarding the spitting incident, the mother said that her children “told me that Henry spat out the car”, while she amended this in December 2012 to state that she was present and saw it.

Ms Cussen also pointed out other discrepancies between the mother’s sworn evidence and statements.

“Your diary entries are not as accurate as you claim”, Ms Cussen said. “Your diary is ambiguous... your evidence is not accurate”.

Ms Cussen said that the Blackwells claim that the root of all the problems is the complainant’s 14-year-old son and his ongoing “unruly behaviour”, particularly an incident in April 2011 in which they claim he “defecated” next to their car after the boy had been scolded by Mr Blackwell for playing ball late at night.

The mother denied this, and claimed that the Blackwells “have taken their anger and their vengeance out on him, rather than having an adult conversation. That’s not right”.

She added that her son has ADHD and dyslexia, is not in full-time education and has attempted to take his own life in the past.

The court heard that both families have made complaints about each other to Limerick County Council’s housing department about their behaviour.

The 14-year-old son, giving evidence, said that he has been constantly abused and threatened by Mr Blackwell. “Any time he sees me in the road he slows down, spits on me, says ‘I’ll get you, you’re dead, you nitty gritty b******’”.

Ms Cussen pointed out that the youth’s evidence was “very general”, and that he was unable to cite specific dates or times for each alleged offence. The youth admitted “I’m no angel”, but denied that he ever defecated on Blackwell’s car.

The 16-year-old daughter gave evidence of being called “a smelly b******” by Mr Blackwell on April 12, while she also alleged that on April 18 she was walking to the shop when Mr Blackwell passed in his car and called her “fatty”.

She also claimed that on July 2 she was threatened by Mrs Blackwell, who “came out of a neighbour’s house with a knife in her hand”, and a confrontation took place in which she and Mrs Blackwell called each other “slut” and “whore”.

Ms Cussen stated that there were also discrepancies between the girl’s statement, the incident diary, and what was said in court. Ms Cussen said that parts of the girl’s evidence were “not very believable”.

Margaret Blackwell, giving evidence, denied approaching the girl on July 2 with a knife in her hand. She claimed that on that day, her two-year-old son had been fallen off a wall after being frightened by the 14-year-old son, and that she had come out to pick him up.

“I had my child in my hands, I had no knife”, Ms Blackwell said.

She said that on the morning she found “poo at the door of my car”, she had seen the 14-year-old looking through the window of his house all morning, waiting for someone to find it.

“[The son] is grand when he’s on his own. It’s when he’s with his mother. She never taught them the difference between right and wrong”.

Mr Blackwell, in his evidence, denied all of the accusations levelled at him by his neighbours. He said that he has been brought “into a row between the women”.

He admitted to scolding the 14-year-old on the night in April 2011. “I opened the top window and told him to feck off down to his own place... He said ‘f*** you’ and walked down home. The next morning, I came out and that was there [the faeces]”.

Ms Cussen asked Judge Aingeal Ni Chonduin to dismiss the cases against both Henry and Margaret Blackwell, due to discrepancies in the complainants’ evidence and their uncorroborated statements.

The judge said “I know there are goings on in an estate. But this is a criminal matter, and I can only go on what I hear”.

She dismissed all charges against the Blackwells, but warned all parties about their future conduct. “You’d better learn to live with each other”, the judge said.