Mentally ill man spared prison

A MAN who graffiti painted his ex-partner’s home and then drove around Castletown shouting death threats, before he set fire to his own car and drove it to the home of the woman’s sister where he made more threats to kill, has escaped with a suspended prison sentence as he suffers from a serious mental illness.

A MAN who graffiti painted his ex-partner’s home and then drove around Castletown shouting death threats, before he set fire to his own car and drove it to the home of the woman’s sister where he made more threats to kill, has escaped with a suspended prison sentence as he suffers from a serious mental illness.

In sentencing Michael Condon, Mountain View, Portlaoise, at the recent circuit court, Judge Tony Hunt remarked that he could not recall a case like it and it was only the fact that Condon suffers from a mental illness that was saving him from prison. Condon faced charges of criminal damage, threatening to kill and dangerous driving, in Castletown on April 23 last year.

On that day, while his ex-partner was out, Condon was seen painting graffiti on the front of her house and the front door was kicked in, although it was not known if he had entered the property. Residents of the area then saw him doing handbrake turns in his car while shouting abuse, with a number of residents telling gardaí that Condon shouted, “I’m going to burn you out of your houses” and “You’re all a shower of bastards in this village”.

Condon then set fire to the passenger seat of his car and drove it to his ex-partner’s sister’s house, where he parked the vehicle in the driveway. The sister was sitting in her own car at the time and she jumped out when Condon arrived. Condon began shouting at her, “You f**king c**t, I told you I’d kill you if you contacted the gardaí”. Her car caught fire and some of the neighbours arrived to push Condon’s car out of the driveway before it exploded. The woman’s car was written off in the fire and it cost €5,000 to replace. The injured party was absolutely terrified when she made her statement to gardai and a protection order was put in place.

When arrested, Condon declined to answer any questions during interview. He remained aggressive and intimidating when charged, saying, “How can you get fingerprints from a burning car?” and “How can people make statements with their heads blown off?”

Condon first appeared before the circuit court on these charges in January of this year, when Judge Hunt adjourned the case for a probation report. Condon has numerous previous convictions, including several threats to kill, assaults and animal cruelty. According to medical reports he has a psychiatric history and has regularly come to garda attention.

When Condon appeared back before the judge at last week’s court, defence, Mr Colm Hennessy said that his client has been on a very strict regime over the last 12 months. Condon has been adhering to a curfew and has been signing on daily at the garda station. He is now taking his medication and his mental health is stable, Mr Hennessy said.

Judge Hunt said that this type of thing should really attract a prison sentence.

“I can’t quite recall something like this (before),” said the judge.

After reviewing the details of the case, Judge Hunt concluded that Condon’s moral culpability was somewhat lessened.

“I’m only suspending the sentence as mental illness was a factor,” said the judge.

Condon received two four-year sentences and a three-month sentence, concurrent, with the sentences suspended for four years on condition that Condon keep the peace for four years. The sentences were backdated to January 23. He must remain under the supervision of his doctor and continue to take his medication and he must engage with the probation service for 18 months. The judge also ordered him to abstain from alcohol and drugs, and keep out of Castletown and Mountrath except on Sundays when he has access to his children. He must also have no contact with the injured party or any witnesses in the case and he must comply with all directions of the family law court. Condon was also disqualified from driving for two years.

“Any further trouble and there’s a substantial period in custody awaiting you,” Judge Hunt warned him.