A 77-YEAR-OLD man who punched his neighbour in the face during a dispute over a right of way between their properties has been told to pay compensation and ordered to write a letter of apology to the injured party.
Tom Lawlor, of Portlaoise Road, Mountrath, denied assaulting Mr Daniel Phelan at Trumera, Mountrath, on November 15 last year.
Mr Phelan told last week’s district court that he was approached in the yard of his farm at 12.30pm by Lawlor and another neighbour, Mr Tony Irwin. Mr Phelan claimed the men were “screaming about a gate” and asking him to remove a lock he had put on it. Mr Phelan told them they were trespassing and asked them to leave, but he claimed that when he turned to call the police Tom Lawlor grabbed him, spun him round and struck him twice with his fist.
Mr Phelan said he was left with a bloodshot eye and a bloodied nose and had to attend his doctor’s.
Mr Tony Irwin was called as a State witness.
Mr Irwin told the court that there was “a bit of laneway” in dispute between Mr Phelan and Tom Lawlor. He said that on the day, when he and Lawlor approached Mr Phelan in his yard, Mr Phelan said: “Get off my land, you’re trespassing scum”.
“We asked him to take the lock off the gate and he again said, ‘Get off my land’,” said Mr Irwin.
Mr Irwin said that Mr Phelan then came toward Lawlor with “his hands in front of him” and “banged into” Lawlor, causing the two of them to go into a ditch.
Mr Irwin said he pulled the two men apart and he claimed that he did not see Lawlor strike Mr Phelan.
“It was handbags really,” he said.
He told the court that Mr Phelan “bowled” Tom Lawlor back and challenged him, before Lawlor grabbed onto Mr Phelan clothes and they fell against a hedge.
Mr Irwin said he could not explain the injuries sustained by Mr Phelan and suggested maybe it was “the sharpness in the ditch” which had caused them.
After Mr Irwin’s evidence, defence for Lawlor made a submission to Judge Catherine Staines that there was a conflict of evidence in the State’s case.
While the judge acknowledged that Mr Irwin’s and Mr Phelan’s evidence did conflict, she ruled that Lawlor had a prima facia case to answer for.
Tom Lawlor took the witness box. He told the court that on the day Mr Phelan had called him “a scumbag” and pushed him into the ditch.
“He said, ‘If it’s a party you want, wait there’,” said Lawlor.
Lawlor denied assaulting Mr Phelan and claimed that Mr Phelan’s injuries may have happened when the two of them fell into the ditch.
Defence pointed out that as Lawlor’s evidence was the same as Mr Irwin’s the court must have a doubt. Judge Staines declared, however, that she was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that an assault had been committed and she described it as a serious matter.
Lawlor was told to pay €500 and ordered to write a letter of apology to Mr Phelan. The matter was put back to January 10 next year, with the judge saying if he complies she may not impose a sentence.