Suspended sentences do mean something, warned Judge Mary Fahy who jailed a man for a total of 11 months this week after he threatened his estranged wife at her home and then grabbed an arresting Garda by the throat in an attempt to evade arrest.
John Keenan (27 ) with an address at 57 Church Drive, Ennis, Clare, appeared last Monday at Galway District Court charged with threatening Elizabeth Keenan and her children at 56 Tirellan Heights and with resisting Garda Gerard Morrissey on October 20, 2008.
A charge of assaulting his wife on the same night was withdrawn after Mrs Keenan dropped the complaint stating, under oath, that she was no longer afraid of him. A charge of contravening a barring order at 76 Castlelawn Heights on December 21, 2008, was also withdrawn.
Garda Morrissey gave evidence that on October 20 he had put the defendant, who was very agitated and aggressive, in the back of the patrol car. Keenan, who had been handcuffed in the front, jumped out and ran away. Garda Morrissey then gave chase and attempted to apprehend him. During the struggle, Keenan turned around and with his two hands grabbed Garda Morrissey by the throat and then grabbed his jacket. Garda Morrissey said that the defendant pushed him repeatedly and kept saying that he was not going to be arrested.
Defence solicitor Valerie Corcoran said that her client had been “very much under the influence” on the night. She added that Keenan also suffers from epilepsy and is now seeing a psychologist.
Judge Fahy replied that the situation was “unfortunate” especially because of the suspended sentence; Keenan received a six month suspended sentence for the assault of Elizabeth Keenan at Eglinton Street on April 17, 2007.
Ms Corcoran said that Keenan has been living in Ennis but wanted to see his children and his wife had let him stay the night. Regarding the aggression shown to Garda Morrissey, Ms Corcoran said that Keenan had started to have “an attack”.
“He is not entitled to take his difficulties out on gardai,” said Judge Fahy who added that it was clear that the defendant was a very aggressive man. For resisting arrest a five month jail sentence was imposed and for threatening his wife a three month sentence was imposed to run concurrently. Judge Fahy then re-activated the suspended six month sentence which she ordered to run consecutively.
“For years suspended sentences have meant nothing. They do mean something. I want that message to go across. He got his chances and he did not take them,” said Judge Fahy who granted leave to appeal.