Suspended sentence for man who terrorised occupants and threatened to burn house

A Tuam man who threatened to burn down a house and terrorised the occupants after his then girlfriend ended their relationship received a two year suspended sentence at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week.

The court heard that Tommy Ward resorted to such violent behaviour because he had been so “deeply in love” and could not accept that the relationship was over. When Ward was kicked out of the house he had been living in at the time he returned to issue a series of threats before assaulting a male occupant.

The 22-year-old accused with an address at 33 Parkmore, Tuam, appeared before Judge Raymond Groarke and pleaded guilty to making threats to Colette Ridgard that he would damage a property at St Finbarr’s Terrace, Bohermore, and to assaulting Jimmy Ruffley causing him harm, on November 19, 2006.

Garda Orla Keenan gave evidence that at around 1.10pm reports were received of a male who had entered a house at St Finbarr’s Terrace while brandishing a knife and that he threatened the occupants. On arrival Garda Keenan saw Mr Ruffley with a blood stained towel wrapped around his hand. When Garda Keenan entered the property she observed three women, two of whom were shaking and crying, in the living room, and a male who was attempting to leave. The male had been shouting and roaring that his girlfriend had been in the house and refused to leave with him.

One of the occupants, Dawn Ridgard, told Garda Keenan that when she had refused to allow her daughter, Colette Ridgard, to leave with Ward she had been grabbed by her legs and pulled from the living room. The court heard that Ward then bent a spoon and lunged at Mr Ruffley and had also attacked him with a broken cup before threatening to burn down the house and break all the windows.

Garda Keenan further explained that Ward was arrested at 1.20pm and detained at Galway Garda station where he made a full admission. Ward has seven previous convictions which include a number of public order offences and a theft. Mr Ruffley sustained lacerations to the hand and had made a full recovery, however he was severely shaken and fearful following the incident.

Defence barrister Geri Silke said that her client, was severely distraught and could not accept that the relationship had ended. She said that Ward, who had been addicted to drugs, suffered from depression so badly that he had been found hanging in the garda station cell and had to be brought to hospital. Ms Silke stressed that the now married man has completely turned his life around by dealing with his addiction and by not coming to Garda notice. She added that Ward has complied with the bail conditions and had brought €300 into court to offer as compensation to Mr Ruffley.

After hearing the evidence Judge Groarke said that the break-up of a relationship does not justify threatening to burn down a house and attacking someone. “He was acting berserk and it must have terrified the people in the house,” he said. However, Judge Groarke did concede that he was impressed that Ward had weaned himself off drugs and has not committed an offence since. He added that someone who has the “guts to do that” should be given encouragement as “society would be best served by him continuing on the path of rehabilitation”.

Judge Groarke then imposed a total sentence of two years suspended on condition that Ward be of good behaviour for a period of 18 months, that Ward be placed under the auspices of the probation services, and that he co-operate fully with counselling and treatment.

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