An Abbeyleix man who claimed he opened a car door and punched a man in the face because he thought the injured party was his brother has been sentenced to 18 months in prison with the last six suspended.
Last week’s sitting of Portlaoise District Court heard that, James El Fehli, with an address at Corran na Noir, Abbeyleix, committed a number of offences while “absolutely strung out on heroin”, including stealing a television from Portlaoise hospital after being admitted with a suspected drug overdose.
Inspector Aidan Farrelly gave evidence of a number of offences:
On November 7, a mobile patrol saw the accused in the driving seat of a car. He admitted he had no insurance, and a drug search revealed a small amount of heroin.
On November 2, El Fehli took his mother’s car without permission, and he was subsequently arrested for drink-driving that vehicle.
On October 31, the accused was arrested for dangerous driving.
He was seen leaving his own housing estate in a car which was being driven erratically at Tonduff, Abbeyleix, with the car veering from side to side. He had no driving licence.
On October 5, he was detected in a highly intoxicated state at Main Street, Portlaoise. He was unable to walk and was arrested for his own safety.
On September 26, the accused was found in possession of items including a torch, gloves and a blade. He told the gardaí the items were for fishing.
He was charged with a public order offence, and an offence under section 9 of the firearms and offensive weapons act, at Boots, Laois Shopping Centre, on September 24 this year.
Staff of Boots had to call an ambulance due to the accused being in a very intoxicated state, but when the ambulance arrived El Fehli refused to get in and the gardaí had to be called.
He was subsequently found to have a stanley blade in his pocket.
That same day, the accused had to be taken to Portlaoise hospital with a suspected drug overdose.
The next day as he was leaving the hospital he stole a TV from an isolation room. The TV was never recovered.
On September 21, he was in a highly intoxicated state at the Dublin Road, Portlaoise, falling off the footpath onto the road.
He admitted to gardaí that he had taken a quantity of tablets.
And on September 12, at Mountrath, he assaulted a man by opening the door of the injured party’s car and punching him.
He was highly intoxicated and thought it was his own brother he had assaulted.
The accused had a number of previous convictions, including theft, criminal damage, assault, robbery, and drug offences.
Defence, Mr Declan Breen said El Fehli had served an 18-month sentence for robbery, which had been committed when he was “absolutely strung out on heroin”.
While serving the sentence he did a number of courses and was meant to source accommodation, but when he was released from prison he had difficulties in linking in with support services and immediately went back to taking prescription drugs and then went back to using heroin.
Mr Breen said that all his client’s offending had occurred in this context, with the accused “constantly out of it, constantly drugged”.
In relation to the assault in Mountrath, Mr Breen said the accused had a very serious issue with his brother, who drove the same car as the injured party.
El Fehli saw the car, opened the door and struck the driver, causing a bruise to his face and a cut to his lip.
In relation to the possession of certain items, defence said that El Fehli had been sleeping rough in the church car park in Abbeyleix and he had no explanation for having the items, including the knife.
Mr Breen went on to say that his client had been “out of it” in Boots pharmacy and suffered a reaction to heroin he had taken.
The next day in hospital, due to his need to source drugs, he took the television.
It had been his need to source heroin that also led him to take his mother’s car, defence said.
Mr Breen told the court that his client’s mother would not take him home until he dealt with his drug problem.
In ruling, Judge Catherine Staines said: “The court sees time and time again the devastation caused by taking heroin. It’s very sad that he’s before the court today on very serious charges, especially assault.”
On the assault charge, Judge Staines imposed six months in prison.
For the possession of certain items, she imposed six months, to run consecutive.
For the theft of the television, she imposed six months, consecutive, but suspended this for two years on condition El Fehli engage with the probation services. All other matters were taken into consideration.
Recognisance was fixed in the event of an appeal.