You can’t jail me, says hay burner

February 1, 1964.

February 1, 1964.

At Mountrath District Court, John Grace, Woodbrook, Mountrath, told Justice W. Sweetman that he could not send him to jail as he had been there before.

In the course of the hearing it was said that there was a malicious claim for €200 for three cocks of hay which were burned on December 4 at the Brigidine Convent grounds, Dysartbeigh, Mountrath.

Sgt M. Boyle, in evidence, said that 20 tons of hay had been destroyed in the fire which was well under way when the brigade was alerted. The defendant, said witness, admitted setting fire to the three cocks of hay.

Witness said that the defendant stated that he got out of bed between two and five in the morning and “got it on his mind” to burn the hay, and went out by the window of the house, put on wellington boots and proceeded to where the three cocks of hay were.

When he arrived there he set fire to the nearest cock which was in a sheltered spot near an electric pole. Defendant, witness continued, said that it got on his nerves to see the hay, and he could not say why he burned it.

Witness gave evidence of defendant’s history, stating that he had received nine months at the Portlaoise Circuit Court for hay burning and had only recently been allowed out of Mountjoy Prison.

The Justice commented that it seemed something would have to be done with the defendant.

Sgt: He wanders about at night.

The defendant, from the body of the court, told the Justice: “You can’t send me to jail, I’ve been there twice already.”

Insp O’Grady told the Justice that the defendant would not consent to medical treatment. He refused to go to St Fintan’s Hospital, saying that there was nothing wrong with him.

Justice: The alternative is prison. If he went voluntarily to the hospital for treatment he would be able to come out at will.

The Justice said to the defendant that he would have to stay in the hospital until he was cured, otherwise he would have to go to jail.

Defendant: Give me a chance, there’s nothing wrong with me.

Justice: There must be when you can’t stand the sight of hay.

At this stage, when the defendant was asked to sign a document stating whether he was pleading guilty or not guilty, he apparently could not make up his mind despite the helpfulness of Justice Sweetman.

The Justice later decided to take deposition at Rathdowney, but it was then decided that if the defendant would voluntarily go to St Fintan’s for treatment the Justice would adjourn any penalty that might be imposed on him. The defendant agreed, and the hearing was fixed for Friday at Rathdowney.