Vigilante behaviour of baton attacker and ‘so-called’ injured party was appalling, says judge

A baton attacker and a “so-called” injured party were both reprimanded for their violent vigilante behaviour which was described by a district court judge as “appalling”.

Making the comments at a hearing at Galway District Court on Monday, Judge Mary Fahy warned that the courts will not and can not condone such behaviour, adding that she was suspicious of the actions taken by both parties.

Claims had been made during the hearing that a feud had been brewing between two families for a number of years before the incident.

At the hearing 26-year-old Michael Folan with an address at 21 Fursey Road, Shantalla, pleaded guilty to production of an article, to wit a baton, in the course of a dispute with intent on October 3, 2009, at Bar One Racing bookmakers at Westside Business Centre. However, he denied the charges of possession of a knife and assault. He was also charged with threatening and abusive behaviour.

Garda Patricia Sloyan gave evidence that a call was received at 5.15pm regarding a row which had taken place at Westside Business Centre. At 6pm gardai were contacted by the alleged injured party, 34-year-old William Mannion, who complained that he had been assaulted and a formal statement was taken on November 28. Garda Sloyan told the court that she had attempted to speak to the accused man numerous times in regard to making a formal statement but he declined to do so.

When Mr Mannion took the stand he explained he had just taken two or three steps from the entrance door of the bookies when he received a “blow” to the right shoulder. Then, as he turned, he received a second blow to the left shoulder. Mr Mannion said that he then saw Folan waving a baton in the air and shouting abuse at him. He went to his nearby car to get a golf club out of the boot and waved it at Folan to fend him off. The court heard that Folan then backed off a bit, ran to his car, threw the baton at Mr Mannion, and took a knife out of his back pocket.

“You’re portraying a very innocent party here in court. You’ve been torturing my client and his family for a very long time,” said defence solicitor Valerie Corcoran who then put it to the witness that he had been seen earlier that day causing damage to Folan’s car using golf clubs. Ms Corcoran further explained that at Bar One Racing her client saw Mr Mannion, took out the baton, and said: “I will damage your car the way you damaged mine”. She stressed that no assault had taken place and no knife had been produced.

“That’s 100 per cent false,” Mr Mannion retorted.

“You said in your statement you chose to seek legal advice on this. You made a statement on November 28. Wouldn’t that be the actions of a man who was worried?... What happened here is that you decided to go to a solicitor because you yourself took out a weapon and someone saw you near his car,” she said.

Mr Mannion replied that at first he didn’t want the matter to come before the courts, that he thought because they live nearby each other that it may be sorted out with a caution. He later said that he had known nothing about damage to Folan’s car and he had feared possible “reprisals” against him and his family.

“He [Folan] says he damaged your car, he did not assault you, you went to get the golf club, and then went after him. Under no circumstances did he have a knife,” said Ms Corcoran, who later added that if an assault had taken place it would have been seen on the CCTV footage.

“What I saw was a knife” replied Mr Mannion.

Folan later told the court that he had been at his aunt’s house when he heard a bang from outside. He went out to see Mr Mannion walking away with a golf club and throwing it into the boot of his car. When asked why he had not reported this to gardai Folan said that he had made many complaints but “nothing has been done about all of these things against me and my family”.

“I didn’t assault him, I told him I was going to break his car like he done mine... I have been provoked, my family has been provoked, and my car tampered with,” said Folan who added that he had swung the baton at Mr Mannion’s car but did not assault him.

After hearing the evidence Judge Fahy said this is “not the way civilised society acts”. “This man [Mannion] very conveniently had golf clubs in his car. There’s something going on here and it involves the defendant and the so-called injured party. The court is not going to condone this type of behaviour, instead of going to phone the gardai, he goes to his car and takes out golf clubs. I am also suspicious that he [Folan] did swing the baton. The behaviour of both men was appalling,” said Judge Fahy.

For production of the baton Folan was convicted and fined €650 with six months to pay. The remaining charges were stuck out by Judge Fahy

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