Judge tries to lessen “gossip value” of teacher assault case

A judge did as much he could to lessen the social effects of the publicity involved in the assault of a teacher on his principal in 2011 by giving him the benefit of the Probation Act in the District Court this week (February 20 ).

“This man is much more likely to suffer greater consequences than I can give him with a criminal sanction,” said Judge Seamus Hughes to Micháel Pleamoinn (41 ), of Barley Fields, Bealnamullia, Athlone.

Last week Pleamoinn pleaded guilty to the assault of his acting headmistress, Máire Ní Murchú, at the Gaelscoil in Lissywoollen on September 14, 2011 in a dispute over an afterschool homework club when he grabbed her by the hair and threw her to the ground.

This week, after noting the national publicity the case garnered, Judge Hughes went out of his way to limit the effects this “once-off aberration” might have on the defendant’s life.

“When I saw it in black and white... on the front page of a national paper when I didn’t think it would make the locals, I saw it had gossip value if for no other reason,” noted the judge.

“This [case] will have a great effect on this man, which has deeply affected me. I’m acutely aware that this was a stress-related aberration,” he said, before adding that it also had a “great effect on his victim” who had to take six months off work, and was treated for post traumatic stress disorder.

“I’m satisfied he won’t do this sort of thing again so long as he continues with his counselling, so I won’t convict,” said Judge Hughes to Pleamoinn’s solicitor, Mr Paul Connellan.

“I noted the sincere and emotional apology of the accused to his victim last week,” he continued, before handing down the smallest sanction the court can issue.

As ordered, the defendant brought €2,000 in compensation to the court for Ms Ní Murchú, and also brought an unprompted €500 extra as a donation to a charity of her choice.

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