A teenage girl facing jail for her part in her family’s false imprisonment and assault of a middle-aged woman, avoided imprisonment herself in the District Court this week (September 14 ) after the injured lady spoke up for her and asked the judge to be “very lenient”.
Helen O’Neill (18 ), formerly of Meadowbrook, Willow Park, Athlone, but now with an address in Athlone, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm, after the false imprisonment charge was dropped.
Garda Niall Cogavin explained how the defendant met the 52-year-old woman on July 26, 2010 and demanded that she buy “a crate of Bud, and a bottle of vodka and Coke for me mother” and bring to their home.
“When she tried to leave she was stopped and told: “We run Willow Park” and “All I need is me mammy to give me the eyes”, before [the named victim] was assaulted,” said Garda Cogavin before listing her extensive injuries.
When Judge Seamus Hughes asked the injured party why she complied with this order for alcohol, she told him: “They weren’t the kind of people you could say no to”.
She explained how she had met the family through a mutual friend, but that she was “too afraid of them” to turn the other cheek.
The soft-spoken woman told Judge Hughes she was on daily medication since the incident for depression, anxiety, and sleep, and that she had no longer any connection with either the O’Neill family or the mutual friend.
“Judge, can you be very lenient to her, she’s only just a kid. I wouldn’t like her to be sentenced to jail. I want her to have a better life for her baby,” said the injured party.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen her show remorse,” said the judge of the defendant.
“But this is a serious case in the public domain, so I have to be seen to be firm so there’ll be no motive to repeat an attack like this,” he said.
“Helen is very appreciative of the generous spirit of [the injured party]. What she did was unacceptable,” said solicitor Mark Cooney, explaining that his client had just had her daughter returned to her.
“I don’t care where it comes from, I want €1,000 [in compensation]. It’s either €1,000 or she brings her toothbrush,” said the judge before remanding O’Neill back to court on February 15.
The other alleged assailants - mother Elizabeth (48 ), and siblings Patrick (20 ), Mary (19 ), and Jean (22 ) - are all awaiting trial in the Circuit Court for their part in the incident.