A man who damaged two vehicles and smashed the windows of a house in Portarlington, forcing the occupants including children to flee for safety, has been jailed by Portlaoise Circuit Court.
John Paul Ryan, 33, with an address at Cnoc Na Si, Killashee, Longford, was charged with three counts of criminal damage, at Sli Na Mona, Portarlington.
Sgt Elaine Horan gave evidence, along with State barrister, Mr Will Fennelly, that a woman was in a relationship with the accused for two years and there were a number of domestic disputes, with a safety order granted on November 21, 2017.
On November 22, 2017, a Ms Lisa O’Sullivan received a call from her daughter saying that the accused was at her house and had broken up a car belonging to Mr Henry Kerry.
The accused and family members were outside the house and the occupants ran for safety, including children, while damage was caused to the building and a car by the accused.
The accused made admissions when arrested and admitted that a dispute had arisen.
The court heard that he comes from a large family in Mountmellick. He was cohabiting with a Ms Kerry at the time.
In a victim impact statement, Ms O’Sullivan said that the accused had broken windows and a door at her house, causing €1,200 damage, and her jeep, causing €1,600 damage.
She said the jeep was used for school drops and a large amount of damage was caused to the house.
She said she and her partner were left trapped in Portarlington and the incident had caused them so much fear and stress. She said she had to take medication for the stress.
In his statement, Mr Kerry said the accused had come to his house and damaged his car and his partner’s car.
“We’ve been living a nightmare since that day,” said Mr Kerry, adding that he had been left very scared and was waking up in a panic.
Defence, barrister Mr Rory Hannify said the accused had been at his mother’s house when he got a call about his sister being attacked.
“He lost the head and went to seek retribution,” said Mr Hannify, adding that the accused had been in an on and off relationship with Ms Kerry.
Defence said that the accused was willing to pay compensation and had expressed remorse.
However, Judge Keenan Johnson said he had heard evidence that the accused had made derogatory remarks about the victims on Facebook. In that context, the judge said the accused’s apology was very hollow.
To this, Mr Hannify said that the victims had posted messages saying the accused had been charged with sexual offences, so the accused had then posted messages saying who had been charged.
Judge Johnson said the accused had shown considerable bravado in his actions.
“I take a very dim view of anyone trying to interfere with justice by posting books of evidence online,” said the judge, going on to describe the accused’s actions as “jungle behaviour”.
Judge Johnson also noted that the accused had since received a conviction for threatening or abusive behaviour, and he had also breached a barring order in January of this year.
Mr Hannify said there had been difficulties in the accused’s relationship concerning access to his child and the breach of the barring order had been him knocking on the woman’s door. Defence said there had been a mending of his ways since then.
Mr Hannify said the accused had problems with drugs and had a number of previous convictions.
Judge Johnson said there was nothing to support anything that defence was saying and no medical evidence in court. He also noted that a probation report had assessed the accused at a high risk of reoffending.
“He’s a complete hothead who finds it very difficult to control his temper and he’s done nothing about controlling his temper,” said Judge Johnson.
The accused himself gave evidence, telling the court that what he did was wrong and wasn’t thinking straight at the time.
He said he had seen a drug counsellor two weeks previously for his substance abuse and had joined up with a local jobs club, but Judge Johnson asked why had he not linked up with this service long before his court appearance.
The accused replied that he was dyslexic, to which Judge Johnson asked how was he able to put the commentary up on social media. The accused replied that a friend did it for him.
“You told your friend to put up ‘cowardly, dirty bastards’?” asked the judge.
“I was only replying back about stuff they put up about me,” replied the accused.
Judge Johnson said the accused had armed himself with a slash-hook and had been completely out of control on the day. Saying he needed time to reflect on the matter, Judge Johnson remanded the accused in custody to July 5.
When the case returned for sentencing on that date, Judge Johnson said he could not stress too strongly how abhorrent it was for the accused to have published parts of the book of evidence on social media.
“I want the message to go out loud and clear that anybody who engages in activity which this court deems to be an attack on the administration of justice will face a harsh sanction, including a custodial sentence for such behaviour,” he said.
Judge Johnson imposed a three-year sentence and suspended the final 18 months for five years, on condition the accused entered into a peace bond for five years; he remains under probation supervision for 18 months; he engages with a training and employment officer; he remains drug and alcohol free and provides urinalysis; and he pays €4,000 compensation to the injured parties.