Community service still possible for hatchet man who chose jail over compo

A man who said he’d rather go to prison than pay any more compensation to the person he injured with a hatchet last year, was remanded on continuing bail this week (February 20 ) to see if he was suitable for the alternative of community service.

Eoin O’Neill (21 ) with an address at Sarsfield Square, Athlone, was convicted last year of slashing the calf of a John Gaffey with the implement during an altercation in Meadowbrook, Willow Park, Athlone last March 13, during which Gaffey also broke two ribs trying to escape.

O’Neill was ordered to pay €3,500 in compensation in order to avoid a jail sentence, and was due in court last week (February 13 ) with the latest instalment of €500, but declared on that day: “I’m not willin’ to pay no more money”, and said he’d be happy to go to prison.

When the judge asked him why, he said: “Why should I feed a junkie’s habit?”

“I don’t care what John Gaffey has for breakfast. I just ordered you to pay money. It’s not your business what he does with it either. If you have any concerns [on this issue] report them to the Gardaí,” said Judge Seamus Hughes to O’Neill last week.

The judge heard how, though O’Neill was unemployed, his father worked in Sweden.

“Any possibility of him getting you a job out there? There’s plenty of oil, and pipelines, and forests for a strong man like you,” said the judge, but O’Neill said it was “unlikely”.

The judge then remanded O’Neill on continuing bail to this week (February 20 ) for payment of another €500, but on Wednesday this was again not forthcoming, and O’Neill reiterated his refusal to pay.

“Mr O’Neill has approached my client in the last week telling him ‘You’ll not get another penny’,” said Gaffey’s solicitor, Mr Cormac Lohan.

“In that case, I’ll send him to jail today,” said the judge.

“That’s no bother,” said a truculent O’Neill, who was remanded in custody over lunch.

When the case resumed Mr Padraig Quinn said he’d taken “clear instructions” from Mr O'Neill, who said he would be willing to pay the outstanding sum, but only if the money went to a charity nominated by the court rather than to the victim.

“No, he won’t dictate to this court,” said the judge.

“I gave him the option of paying compensation and he hasn’t taken it.”

The judge ordered O’Neill be assessed for community service and, if found suitable, would do 240 hours in lieu of four months in jail.

He was remanded on bail until March 27.


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