Jail still looms for arson threats and TV throwing

An Athlone man who threatened to burn down the home of a shopkeeper, and also that of a garda; and who threw a TV, table, and toilet seat at other gardaí, was remanded on continuing bail in Sligo Circuit Court on Tuesday (April 5 ) to re-appear before Judge Anthony Kennedy in Athlone Circuit Court on July 26.

Paul Berry (47 ), with addresses at Assumption Road and Castlecove, Bealnamullia Road, Athlone was at a special sitting in Athlone District Court last week (March 29 ), where he pleaded not guilty to two of the 14 charges he faced.

However, when Judge Seamus Hughes convicted him, he learned about an outstanding suspended sentence issued by Judge Kennedy in the superior court last July, and remanded Berry in custody to Judge Kennedy’s next sittings of the Circuit Court, which were this week in Sligo.

As this was predominantly a session of family law, Judge Kennedy remanded Berry on his own bail of €300 until the July date, and ordered him adhere to an 11pm to 6am curfew and be of good behaviour. Berry was also remanded to re-appear before Judge Hughes back in Athlone next Wednesday (April 13 ), to face a number of other unspecified charges.

Last week, when his case was heard in the District Court, a witness told how how Berry came into his shop on July 16 and started verbally abusing him because: “I had let off his daughter recently”.

“He said he would go to my house in Glasson, burn it down, and rape my daughter,” said the witness.

Berry’s solicitor, Mr Tony McLynn, said his client accepted his aggression but “contests the wording”.

In evidence, Berry denied this allegation, but admitted he was attending an anger management course.

Arresting officer Garda Gary Sexton gave evidence that when he arrived at the shop, the owner repeated Berry’s threats to him.

Then, Garda John Horkan told the court how Berry had also threatened to find out where he lived and burn him out during an arrest of the defendant on Mardyke Street in the early hours of September 11 following a “heated argument”.

“He squared up to me...It took three guards to put the handcuffs on him,” said Garda Horkan who explained he arrested Berry that night on account of an outstanding warrant.

Again, Berry gave evidence to deny this, as also did his partner Fiona Powell.

“You’re making him out to be a monster. He’s not a particularly violent man, but he can be when he’s on drink and all the pills,” she said.

Judge Seamus Hughes then asked to hear the facts from a select few of the cases to which Berry was pleading guilty.

Garda Shane Kenna told how gardai were called to an address in Cushla Lawns at 5.10am on February 21, 2010 and found Berry standing on a first floor window ledge shouting at the gardaí. On entering the house, a TV, two tables and a ripped-off toilet seat were thrown down the stairs at Garda Kenna and his colleague by the defendant, who had to be subdued with pepper spray.

Gardaí were also called to this address in the early hours of August 2 for a similar offence, and also to the Pitstop chipshop on Connacht Street on May 5 to deal with Berry. He contested none of these.

“I’m satisfied I can convict your client on the two he contested,” said Judge Hughes to Mr McLynn.

When Inspector Nicholas Farrell began reading Berry’s 36 previous convictions, he mentioned the Circuit Court conviction from July 21, where Berry had a six month jail sentence suspended for a year for possession of a knife, which qualified the convicted for the Sligo remand.

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