The aggression and violence shown in court towards members of the gardai, the judiciary, and solicitors is on the rise, according to a district court judge who said she has seen more “viciousness” in the last few months than in all her 17 years on the bench.
Judge Mary Fahy made the comments while hearing the case of a 30-year-old Clare man who brazenly approached a HSE employee outside the Galway courthouse last year and threatened to kill him.
The Galway District Court heard on Monday how John Keenan of 1 Waterpark Heights, Ennis, Co Clare, had been over-wrought with emotion because he had not been able to see his children. Inspector Brendan Carroll described how Keenan approached a HSE staff member who had been involved in the case, threatened to kill him, before telling him that he would die that very day.
Commenting on the violence shown by Keenan and other defendants who have been before the court Judge Fahy said: “Regretably, in the 17 years on the bench I have never seen such viciousness as I have seen in the last few months. The defendants are turning their ire out on the gardai, the judiciary, and their solicitors. Everyone is to blame but them. It is about time people grew up in this country and took responsibility for their own actions.”
Keenan entered a plea of guilty to threatening and abusive behaviour outside Galway courthouse on July 13, 2010. Inspector Carroll told the court that an application had been made on that date at Galway District Court and the defendant approached the HSE staff member, blaming him for the splitting up of his family, and threatening him.
Defence solicitor Valerie Corcoran said that her client fully accepts that he was “mouthing off”, however, he maintains that he never threatened to kill him. She added that there had been another incident in Ennis involving the same individual for which Keenan received a six month sentence. She said that Keenan had been very emotional and upset as he had not been able to see his children, but that he knows the HSE staff member had been just “doing his job”.
The injured party then approached Judge Fahy and confirmed that Keenan did indeed threaten to kill him. Inspector Carroll explained that Keenan received a prison sentence on March 21 of this year for assault and threatening and abusive behaviour and that it related to the same injured party. He later added that Keenan has a total of 60 previous convictions which include assault, public order offences, and theft.
“This man has a history of violence and this has spilled over to people working with the family...The defendant accepts he is wrong, the family broke up because of his own violence. When I see how people behave when they are sober I can only shudder to think how they behave when they are out and about. The aggression and the violence I have seen in the last few months is unprecedented in the 17 years I have been on the bench. They need to show a bit of respect for everyone in the system,” said Judge Fahy.
Ms Corcoran said that Keenan had been over-wrought with emotion at the time of the offence but that he now understands he is wrong. She then asked for any sentence that would be imposed to be made concurrent to the sentence the defendant is currently serving.
Judge Fahy imposed a two month sentence, to be served on lawful termination of the sentence being served, however after further consideration she suspended the final month for a period of 12 months on condition that Keenan enter into a bond of €300 to be of good behaviour and have no contact with the injured party. Leave to appeal was granted.