Turf rather than time - charity bog option offered

The man whose conviction for farmyard theft in March led to a judge praising the Mayo farmer who shot dead a Traveller trespasser, avoided jail in the District Court this week (June 22 ) after his father promised the defendant would deliver a “lorryload of turf” to St Vincent de Paul as a community service alternative.

“You are just one sod of turf away from prison,” Judge Seamus Hughes warned Martin Stokes (20 ), from Millbrook Drive, Monksland, Athlone, who was in court to plead guilty to possession of a knife and the theft of a mobile phone from a handbag.

Inspector Nicholas Farrell told how Stokes had thrown the knife away when approached by gardaí and that it was “a Stanley-style implement”.

In court Stokes told the judge the knife was for fishing and the handbag theft occurred when he was “drunk and stupid”, but Judge Hughes was unconvinced.

“You’re telling me a fisherman’s tale,” said the judge.

In mitigation, the court heard how Stokes was one of a family of 10, and had left school at 13.

“I would prefer to send him to the Aran Islands, give him five hectares and tell him to pick all the stones, but unfortunately I’m not allowed,” said Judge Hughes.

“You just stay at home lying around, scheming about what you’re going to steal next,” said Judge Hughes.

“Do you have any suggestions in the line of hard work?” he asked Stokes’ solicitor, Mr Owen Carty.

After a brief adjournment, Mr Carty returned with his client and his client’s father saying: “He can keep his son in gainful employment on a bog in Ballyforan, Co Roscommon”, and suggested a donation of turf to St Vincent de Paul as community service in lieu of prison.

Judge Hughes asked Stokes’ father how much could be donated, and he suggested: “A lorryload”, and estimated this to be 100 bags.

Judge Hughes postponed finalising matters until July 20, in order to speak with the local head of the charity to see if this was a suitable community service order.

On March 29, Stokes was sentenced to 11 months in prison for stealing from a Roscommon farmyard, but had it suspended for two years, which prompted Judge Hughes to comment: “It takes a Mayo man to put an end to that sort of thing. And I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about the venerable Padraig Nally”.

Last September Stokes was sentenced to seven months detention, also suspended for two years for trying to sell stolen scaffolding to a scrapyard.

Recently, Judge Hughes has inclined towards labour intensive community service orders instead of jail when appropriate for non-violent offenders.


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