03 Jul 2022

Laois man cleared of assault with mallet after jury hears he was defending his son

Tullamore Circuit courtroom

Jury at Tullamore Circuit Court acquitted a man of assault

A Laois man has been found not guilty of assaulting a construction worker in Edenderry after a jury heard evidence of a blow to the head with a mallet.

The jury in the trial of Christopher Doheny, 51, Derrin Oliver, Pike of Rushall, Mountrath, returned their verdict after deliberating for one and three-quarter hours at Tullamore Circuit Court.

Mr Doheny had denied assaulting Alan Fisher, causing him harm, at JKL Street, Edenderry on October 27 last year when both were working for a Mountmellick company, Dunne Brothers, on footpath repairs.

The jury also found Mr Doheny not guilty of producing a brick mallet in the course of a dispute.

During two days of evidence before Judge Francis Comerford the jury of eight men and four women heard that the accused and his son, Christopher Doheny Junior, were working on cobblelock on a footpath near McGreal's furniture store in the town centre.

A few metres away Mr Fisher and his brother Darren Fisher were carrying out similar work and following a verbal exchange between Mr Doheny Junior and two foremen, Alan Fisher went up to the accused's son and punched him twice.

The jury were then told that Mr Doheny Senior struck Alan Fisher on the head with a brick mallet, resulting in his hospitalisation where he was diagnosed with a broken jaw.

He was treated in both Tullamore Hospital and St James's Hospital, Dublin.

In his charge to the jury on Thursday morning, Judge Francis Comerford said among the matters the jurors would have to decide was if the accused had a lawful excuse for striking Mr Fisher.

Judge Comerford said the use of force is justified if the person accused of assault believes it to be reasonable to protect himself, a member of his family, or another person.

In closing arguments on Wednesday, Kevin White, BL, prosecuting (instructed by Sandra Mahon, state solicitor for Offaly), told the jury that even if they decided that the accused had hit Mr Fisher because he wished to protect his son, it was the State's case that his action was disproportionate.

Mr White said Alan Fisher had used his fist against Christopher Doheny Junior and was then “clubbed to the face” with a brick mallet by Christopher Junior's father.

Damien Colgan, SC, defending (with Suzanne Dooner, BL, instructed by Josephine Fitzpatrick, solicitor) said the accused man had done what he did to protect his son and it was reasonable and justifiable and the use of force was appropriate.

On Wednesday the trial heard Mr Doheny Senior had told gardai after the incident that he had meant to punch the other man instead of hitting him with a mallet.

“I hit him with the mallet. It was supposed to be my fist, I didn't realise the mallet was in my hand,” he said in an interview with gardai.

Garda David Doran stated the accused said he had “lost it” when his son Christopher Junior was “under attack” by two or three men.

The accused told the gardai that he had seen an argument going on between his son and two foremen, named as Paddy Hughes and Stuart Moffatt, and then when Alan Fisher hit Christopher Junior he went to hit him.

Mr Doheny Senior said Alan Fisher's brother then got involved before Stuart Moffatt stopped it all by separating the men.

He said he never intended for what he did to happen, was very sorry it had and was sorry for the man who was hit and he apologised to Alan Fisher.

He also said any parent “would do the same” as he had done on that day.

Christopher Doheny Junior said in evidence that the work on the footpath had started that day without a brief, an induction, a safety talk or a risk assessment.

When himself and his father were told to work alongside two other men, Alan Fisher and his brother Darren, Christopher Junior said that was not going to work because the Fishers were subcontractors so he moved to pave a different section up the street.

Mr Doheny Junior also told of an incident that morning where the rear wheels of a dumper moving a bale of bricks were lifted up and the cobblelock bricks smashed off the ground, and “nearly wiped out” his father.

In relation to what happened after he had been arguing with the foremen about how the day's work was organised, the witness said Alan Fisher came up and punched him twice and within three seconds his father, the accused, hit Alan Fisher on the jaw area with a mallet.

Alan Fisher's brother, who was also working on the cobblelocking, came up and got into a scuffle with the accused.

Mr Doheny Junior said he saw Darren Fisher pick up a bar before leaving it down and picking up a brick which he threw, but it did not hit anybody.

Mr Doheny Junior also gave evidence about an incident six or seven weeks earlier when he was working on the Rathangan Road in Edenderry near the soccer pitch.

He said he had reported Darren Fisher for being “off his head on drugs” and later that day Darren Fisher came up and said “What the f... are you saying about me?”

When Mr Doheny Junior returned to the compound off JKL Street where the workers parked their vehicles he noticed he had a flat wheel, a missing hubcap and three dents on his car.

In his evidence, Darren Fisher said that on October 27 he saw his brother hitting Christopher Doheny Junior and also saw the accused hitting Alan Fisher.

Darren Fisher also said he got a shovel and remembered saying he would break up Christopher Doheny Senior's car with it but he did not do it, though he admitted running around ranting and raving.

Darren Fisher said that while he was a recovering drug addict who had previously been taking heroin and cocaine he was clean at the time of the incident in Edenderry.

He said he did not know anything about hub caps or dents or damage to Christopher Junior's car and denied having a plan to attack the Dohenys.

Garda Doran told the trial that when he arrived at the scene Darren Fisher had a shovel and was highly agitated and he took the shovel from him.

Neither of the Dohenys provided statements at the time and the mallet was never recovered.

Garda Doran said he sought CCTV footage from the street, including from a camera at the AIB bank, but that one was set too low and was not used. The footage used in the trial was from a camera outside nightclub known as The Alley.

When the trial opened on Tuesday, Alan Fisher said he was working in Edenderry with his brother Darren, and the accused man was working in a separate area with his son.

Alan Fisher said he had heard that “young Chris” was insulting the work carried out by himself and his son and because he took offence he confronted him.

When a scuffle broke out he punched Christopher Doheny Junior twice and then he remembered feeling a severe impact on the right side of his head which stunned him.

Mr Fisher said he had never been hit like that before and he had experience of martial arts.

“I was just in a daze for a good hour or two after that,” Mr Fisher said.

He was brought to hospital and his cheek bone had to be reconstructed with steel plates and he still suffered from the injury, sometimes experiencing double vision.

When CCTV footage was played in court, Mr Fisher said he could see himself being hit by Christopher Doheny Senior .

Cross-examined by Mr Colgan, Mr Fisher accepted that there had been “some argument” with the Dohenys six or seven weeks earlier and he had heard it was said that one of the Fishers was off his head on drugs.

He said his brother wasn't taking drugs at the time and while he had been a heroin addict previously himself, at the time of the offence he was trying to come off it.

Mr Fisher also said what happened six or seven weeks earlier was not the reason he had confronted Christopher Doheny Junior.

He said he had returned to work only briefly after the incident but did not work on that project when it was finished and since then had worked occasionally with his father.

In November Alan Fisher, a 39-year-old with an address at Standhouse Lawns, Newbridge, Co Kildare, and Darren Fisher, 40, of St Bridget's Terrace, Brownstown, Curragh, Kildare, were prosecuted at Tullamore District Court for committing assault at JKL Street, Edenderry on October 27, 2020.

Judge Catherine Staines scheduled a District Court hearing for October 3, 2022.

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