Birthday celebrations that went too far ended in a four month jail sentence for a 28-year-old man who harassed and spat at passers by before leaving an elderly man visibly shaken by demanding money and then slapping an ice cream violently out of his hand.
Michael Ward with an address given as no fixed abode appeared before Galway District Court on Monday where he pleaded guilty to the charge of assault, contrary to Section 2 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, and threatening and abusive behaviour, contrary to Section 6 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order ) Act, at Eyre Square, on June 10, 2012. A charge for being intoxicated in a public place was struck out by the State.
Garda Dermot Hardiman gave evidence of arresting Ward in Eyre Square and bringing him to Galway Garda Station where after charge and caution he gave no reply. The court heard how Garda Hardiman had been on mobile patrol when he received a report of a male acting in an aggressive manner. Ward had been harassing and spitting at people in Shop Street while he made his way to Eyre Square where he assaulted an elderly man with a walking stick. Garda Hardiman further explained to the court that a man pointed out the defendant, who was intoxicated, saying that he had been assaulted. The injured party had bought an ice cream when Ward approached demanding money. However, when the elderly man refused to give him money Ward slapped the ice cream out of the shocked man’s hand. Garda Hardiman added that the injured party was left extremely shaken as a result of the incident.
The court then heard that Ward has 12 previous convictions including jail sentences for public order, trespass, and burglary.
Defence solicitor Sarah O’Dowd said that although her client does have a bad record there is no previous conviction for assault. She said that Ward is very apologetic and that he entered a plea at the first available opportunity. Ms O’Dowd then explained that Ward had been out celebrating his birthday and that there had been a lot of drinks bought for him over a long period of time so that he was highly intoxicated.
“This man [the injured party] had a walking aid,” retorted Judge Aeneas McCarthy.
Ms O’Dowd replied that Ward, an unemployed married father of five, did not mean to knock the ice cream and that it was unintentional. She added that Ward is anxious to avoid a custodial sentence and would abide by any conditions of the court.
“I cannot ignore the fact that this was an elderly man with a walking stick,” said Judge McCarthy before convicting Ward of the charge of assault and imposing a four month jail sentence. A three month sentence, to run concurrently, was also imposed for threatening and abusive behaviour. Leave to appeal was granted.