Peter Harty was convicted by Judge Mary Larkin following a contested hearing at Newcastle West Court
AN Askeaton man who went “head to head” with another man as part of an ongoing family feud in the area, contested a charge of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour.
His solicitor, Pat Enright, described the incident as a “fair fight” between two parties who had willingly participated.
Peter Harty, St Mary’s Terrace, Askeaton told Judge Mary Larkin at Newcastle West court that he was “approached” to fight a man from “the other side of the trouble” at the Town Park in Askeaton on March 14 last year.
He had gone down to the scene, sent by his father, to look for his brother, he explained. There was a crowd of people there, “all fighting each other”, when he was approached to fight. “The minute I landed, it was put to me straightaway,” Harty said.
“The two of us went head to head. We had a few boxes. The rest were roaring at us,” Harty said in evidence.
Garda Liam Hallett arrived at the same time as himself, Harty said and “ stood back and watched” the fight between him and Mikey Harty.
“He didn’t ask me to stop.”
The fight was then broken up by people from each side.
But Harty and his solicitor stressed that he, Harty, had had no part in the incidents before he arrived.
Earlier, Garda Hallett told the court he had received a report of a disturbance and went to investigate. He was on his own when he came on a crowd of 20 people at the Town Park, all members of the extended Harty family.
Peter Harty was at the scene, the garda said and wasn’t involved in any fight initially but he became involved with another man who had previously come before the court. He asked them to desist, he said.
“They were boxing the heads off each other. They would have been roaring at each other.
It was unsafe for me to deal with it,” the garda said. “There was verbal interaction, effing and blinding.” But he did not hear any threats. “My fear was had the situation not been brought to a close, the parties would have been injured and other people present could have become involved.”
He judged the scenario to be “dangerous, hostile and volatile”, he continued, and called for back-up. Splitting them up was not a “safe option”, the garda said. He estimated the fight lasted three minutes.
In cross-examination, Mr Enright put it to him: “After a couple of minutes in the best traditions of a fair fight the parties were separated by friends and relations. The parties went their separate way and that was the end of that.”
It was he said, a case of “two men throwing a few slaps at one another”. “They went into if of their own free will…not really more than throwing shapes,” he said.
“I don’t agree,” Garda Hallett replied. He also rejected Mr Enright’s suggestion that he was “effectively” refereeing the one-on-one fight, with his baton at the ready.
Mr Enright argued there was no breach of section 6 of the Public Order Act as there was no evidence of any threat. But Inspector Alan Cullen counter-argued, saying the behaviour was such that any “reasonable member of the public” would be in fear.
After hearing the evidence, Judge Mary Larkin convicted Harty of the charge.
“He is not a man who goes out looking for trouble,” Mr Enright said in mitigation. “Perhaps through culture or other reasons he got involved in things he might not have anticipated when he got up that morning.”
Judge Larkin, fining Harty €300, said: “I find find it extraordinary to understand in this day and age, where there are mediators to resolve issues, that we have to step up to one another and box the head off each other and shout.”
“It is of concern that it is continuing to happen in the context of one family,” she added. “This is hugely unacceptable behaviour.”
She fixed recognizance in the event of appeal at €250.