TWO men have been convicted of affray, with one also convicted of assault, in an incident in which an Errill man had a portion of his ear bitten off following a number of altercations in the vicinity of a Camross pub.
Phelim Moore, of Lacca, Mountrath, pleaded not guilty to one charge of assault causing harm and one charge of affray, while Aidan Carroll, of Tinakill, Coolrain, pleaded not guilty to two counts of assault causing harm and one count of affray. The offences occurred in Camross village on November 28, 2010, and the injured parties were two brothers from Errill, William and Gerard Danagher. The Danaghers were in the company of Ms Alice Sheeran, Errill, and Mr Alan Corrigan, Rathdowney.
The jury in the recent Circuit Court trial heard that Mr Corrigan was knocked unconscious during the incident, in which the injured parties alleged they were attacked with a baseball bat and a hurl. Neither garda evidence nor medical evidence in the case gave any indication that such weapons were used.
Ms Sheeran took the witness box, to say she had attended a 21st birthday party in Bergins pub on the night. She told the court of confronting two girls in the toilets about “stuff they were saying about my sister”. When she left the pub with her boyfriend, William Danagher, she saw a group of around 20 girls outside who were “mouthing” at her and verbal abuse was exchanged.
She said that the boyfriend of one of the girls hit William Danagher, after he intervened during an exchange, and Mr Danagher hit him back. Ms Sheeran said that she, the two Danaghers and Mr Corrigan left the scene and were walking up a hill, when the two defendants drove past and parked up their car near Scully’s house, a large building at the top of the hill near the crossroads. She claimed that Moore and Carroll got out of the car and removed a baseball bat and hurl from the boot, which they slapped against their palms, before they ran at her group.
“I saw Aidan Carroll and Willie (Danagher) fighting, Aidan had the hurl and Willie was trying to get it off him,” she said.
“They ended up boxing and kicking, Aidan had Willie on the ground. Phelim Moore had his arms around Gerry (Danagher), it was more wrestling than fighting. At one stage Willie got up and fired Aidan out of his way and ran over to Gerry. Aidan ran back in at Willie and threw boxes at the backs of their heads. Phelim had blood down the front of his shirt.”
Ms Sheeran said that following the altercation, she could see that Gerard Danagher had blood all down his front and half his ear was missing.
In his evidence, Gerard Danagher said that when the two defendants started to run toward his group, he, his brother and Mr Corrigan went toward them covering themselves. He said that “the bigger guy”, referring to Moore, got him in a bear-hug and “latched onto” his ear.
“He bit it, it was so painful, I was trying to worm my way out but I couldn’t,” he said. “I was shouting for help, but he had me squeezed in while he was biting my ear.”
Mr Danagher said he went into shock after the altercation and woke up in hospital. He subsequently required surgery on his ear.
“I can’t remember anything after the assault, there was so much blood and I was in so much pain,” he said.
William Danagher took the stand. He told the court that in relation to the incident outside the pub, a woman had tried to hit Ms Sheeran so he stood between them.
The woman’s boyfriend then hit him a box in the nose and Mr Danagher swung back at the man, causing him to slip and fall to the ground. William Danagher said he sustained a nose bleed when the man boxed him.
William Danagher went on to say that when they left the pub and walked up the hill, after the car passed them and pulled up at Scully’s house he heard Ms Sheeran shout, “They’re getting hurls”.
“It all happened very quickly, they ran at us and we moved toward them and met up at the cross,” he said. “The smaller guy (Carroll) came at me with a hurl above his head.”
William Danagher said that he tried to wrestle the hurl off Carroll and the two of them fell to the ground. He said that while he was shielding himself from kicks and punches, he heard his brother Gerard shout out, “He’s biting my ear”.
“The bigger guy (Moore) had his arms around Gerard,” he said. “I tried to pull him off but he was latched onto his ear with his teeth and my brother was crying out in pain. At one point I had my hands around the bigger guy’s neck and the smaller guy was throwing in punches to both me and Gerard.”
William Danagher went on to say that “other guys” arrived and broke the fight up. He said that he saw one of the defendants pick up “something” from the ground and throw it into the back of the car, before the two defendants drove off.
Defence for Moore was Ms Geraldine Fitzpatrick and defence for Carroll was Mr Stephen Groarke. Defence claimed that one of the injured parties’ group kicked Moore’s car as it drove past, which was why the two men stopped the vehicle and got out.
They claimed that when Moore and Carroll got out to check if any damage had been caused by the kick, the Danaghers and Mr Corrigan ran at them. Defence denied that a baseball bat and hurl were produced and they pointed out that no allegations of weapons were made to the gardaí on the night.
The defence also said that Carroll had three times admitted to gardaí that he had bitten Gerard Danagher’s ear in self defence, despite the fact that the injured parties said that it was Moore who had inflicted the damage. Defence put it to the court that Moore and Carroll had seen William Danagher involved in the altercation outside the pub and when they saw him coming toward them covered in blood they felt threatened.
Both defendants took the stand to give evidence.
Phelim Moore claimed he heard “a bang on the side of the car” as he drove past the group on their way up the hill. When he pulled in and he and Carroll got out, he said that “three lads came running across the road shouting”. Moore claimed he struck “a tall lad” with his fist - this referred to Mr Corrigan. He said that after he hit Mr Corrigan, he saw Aidan Carroll on the ground with two men on top of him. Moore claimed he pulled one of the men off Carroll and they both fell into a ditch. He denied having a baseball bat or hurl and denied biting Gerard Danagher’s ear.
“Camross is a hurling area, every second car would have a hurl,” suggested State prosecutor, Mr Desmond Dockery.
“It’s a hurling area, but every second car wouldn’t have a hurl. I don’t hurl either,” said Moore.
In his evidence, Aidan Carroll told the court that he saw William Danagher fighting outside the pub. He said that when he and Moore were driving up the hill he heard “a thump” on the side of the car.
“It was obvious to me someone had struck the side of the car,” he said.
When they got out to check the car, Carroll maintained that the two Danaghers and Mr Corrigan ran at them roaring and shouting.
“They were three angry boys coming to do harm,” he said.
Carroll claimed that the two Danaghers grabbed him and dragged him out to the middle of the road. He claimed that Gerard Danagher landed on top of him and William Danagher landed next to him, so he bit Gerard Danagher’s ear.
He said that he did not intend to sever the ear and that when he got a hold of it, Gerard Danagher started to shout.
“I never struck any man with a hurl,” he said. “I did bite his ear but I never hit him.”
The State, led by Mr Dockery, put it that the defendants had attacked the group in retaliation for an injury sustained by a woman and a man outside the pub. Mr Dockery also said that Carroll was accepting responsibility for the injury to Gerard Danagher’s ear in an effort to confuse the case.
The jury - which comprised just 11 people as on the second day of the trial it transpired that a juror knew the family of one of the accused and so had to be excused - retired for over four hours to reach their verdict. When they returned they found Moore guilty of affray and Carroll guilty of affray and one count of assault. They were unable to reach a verdict on the charge of assault against Moore and one count of assault against Carroll.
The matter now goes back to the Director of Public Prosecutions to direct on the remaining two charges. The defendants were released on their own bail and the matter was put back to January 15, 2013.