Limerick pensioner guilty of assault in sulky row

Donal O'Regan

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Donal O'Regan

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donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

Limerick pensioner guilty of assault in sulky row

Kilmallock Courthouse

A JUDGE has found a pensioner guilty of punching an elderly man, displacing his glasses and hearing aid, after a sulky crash.

In November, Martin McDonagh, aged 66, of Riverview Estate, Kilmallock, pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm and dangerous driving at Riversfield, Kilmallock, on September 9, 2018.

After the lengthy contested case in Kilmallock Court, Judge Marian O’Leary said, “There are serious consequences for everybody” before adjourning the case to this earlier month to give her decision.

Before announcing her verdict last week, Judge O’Leary gave a summary of the evidence. She began by raising the issue of “bias” raised by Mr McDonagh’s barrister, Reginald Garrett. During the original case Mr Garrett accused gardai of “bias” and “treating people differently” in their investigation.

Judge O’Leary said any alleged perception of bias is not a matter for this court.

“The only matters before this court are dangerous driving and assault causing harm,” said Judge O’Leary.

The judge then gave an overview of the 73-year-old injured party’s evidence.

“He was on his way to his son’s residence on a straight stretch of road. He saw flashing lights but kept going because there was space for the driver (Mr McDonagh) to pull in. He said he saw a horse behind the jeep (driven by Mr McDonagh) and stopped to let it pass.

“He said Mr McDonagh opened his jeep door and began punching him into the face. He said his glasses fell off and his hearing aid was knocked out. After he drove off he turned the dashcam around,” said Judge O’Leary.

This footage was played at the original hearing. It showed blood coming from the 73-year-old’s nose and on his jumper. Mr McDonagh can be heard shouting: “My son could have been killed. Come out you c***. Who do you think you are? I waved you down. You want to be careful, boss.”

“He (the injured party) said he went to his son’s house, then to the doctor’s and to the hospital. He was diagnosed with a fractured nose,” said Judge O’Leary.

The judge summarised the defence’s case by saying Mr McDonagh was driving a jeep with his son in a sulky behind him.

“He said a jeep (driven by the injured party) was 200 metres away, did not slow down and forced him off the road causing the sulky and pony to run into the back of Mr McDonagh’s jeep.

“They said the injured party hit his head off the steering wheel and there was no noise on the dashcam suggesting somebody had been struck,” said Judge O’Leary.

Turning to the investigating garda, John Curtin, the judge said the garda gave evidence of meeting the complainant after the incident and he had a bandage on his nose and blood on his jumper.

”Garda Curtin said two motor propelled vehicles could pass each other on the road if done so carefully.

“He did not interview Mr McDonagh that day to check his knuckles with evidence being lost,” said Judge O’Leary.

Mr McDonagh did not give evidence at the hearing but Judge O’Leary summarised a cautioned interview with gardai which was read out by Garda Curtin.

“He denied punching him a number of times and did not see blood on his face. His son in the jeep did not see anything and another son following on a sulky did not get a chance to slow down,” said Judge O’Leary. She also referenced Mr McDonagh saying to gardai, ’Why should I have to pull in? I thought that man should pull in’,” said Judge O’Leary.

The judge found that the 73-year-old was assaulted by Mr McDonagh.

“The dashcam footage shows his nose bleeding. There is no evidence consistent with the injured party hitting his head off the steering wheel. He had his seat belt on,” said Judge O’Leary.

The judge said the State did not meet the threshold for dangerous driving and dismissed this charge against Mr McDonagh.

Judge O’Leary did say the sulky should have been able to stop in an “emergency situation”.

Kilmallock Court heard that Mr McDonagh has five previous convictions – all for road traffic.

Mr Garrett BL, who represented Mr McDonagh, said his client maintains “no assault took place”.

“He is adamant no assault took place. He is a person of good character and well respected he tells me. He is someone of quite elderly years. It is Mr McDonagh’s intent to appeal,” said Mr Garrett.

Judge O’Leary said she need to get a victim impact statement before sentencing Mr McDonagh. The case was adjourned to Kilmallock Court on January 19.