Youth’s ‘cowardice’ in stoning autistic man

“Appalling. Cowardly. Pathetic.” The words used by Judge Catherine Staines to describe the actions of a 15-year-old Portlaoise youth who threw stones at a man with autism.

“Appalling. Cowardly. Pathetic.” The words used by Judge Catherine Staines to describe the actions of a 15-year-old Portlaoise youth who threw stones at a man with autism.

The youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared before last week’s sitting of Portlaoise District Court, charged with two counts of assault, at Harpurs Lane, Portlaoise, on June 6 this year.

Inspector Aidan Farrelly gave evidence that the injured parties were a father and son, the father a security operative locally and the son a 20-year-old with autism.

The pair were walking along Harpurs Lane on the day when they were passed by a group of youths, one of whom was the defendant. A comment was made to the father about his son, before the group started throwing stones at them. One of the stones hit the son on the leg, scaring him a lot, Insp Farrelly said.

Insp Farrelly said the attack had interfered with the son’s progress in dealing with his autism. The inspector read from a statement made by the man in which he said the incident had “damaged the progress I’ve made”.

Defence, Mr Philip Meagher said it had been “loose pebbles” on the road that had been picked up and thrown, going on to claim that one of the group of youths had an issue with the father.

“Why, because he stops them going into stores shoplifting?” remarked Judge Staines.

Mr Meagher admitted that his client’s behaviour had been appalling. He said that the youth is now attending with a probation officer and had also been attending the Block Project youth group.

“I’m absolutely appalled,” declared Judge Staines. “To throw stones at a vulnerable young man, it’s just cowardice, it’s just pathetic - you should be ashamed of yourself,” she told the youth.

Ruling that the law obliged her to put the matter back for a probation report, Judge Staines adjourned the case to November 20 and said she could not decide on sentencing until she saw the report. The youth was also ordered to write a letter of apology to the father and son.

The youth also faced separate theft charges at last week’s court.

Insp Farrelly gave evidence that on June 18, at TK Maxx, Kyle Shopping Centre, Portlaoise, the youth took the label off a hat in the shop and placed it in his trousers, before leaving the store without paying.

The youth also stole groceries worth €8.10 from a different store on June 19.

All matters were put back to November 20.

Also before last week’s court was a 16-year-old Portlaoise youth charged with two counts of assault causing harm, and two counts of burglary, at Cosby Hall, Stradbally, on August 30 this year.

Insp Farrelly said the State were still awaiting DPP directions in the case and he requested a three-week adjournment.

Judge Staines noted that the youth had missed two appointments with his probation officer. The youth’s mother replied that they had forgotten about the appointments.

“This court is trying to do everything it can to keep your son out of prison,” Judge Staines told her, before advising the youth: “Buy an alarm clock, get up on time and keep all your appointments.”

An up to date probation report on the youth was requested for November 13.