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17/09/2021

Teenager struck unconscious man on head with shovel during Offaly 'hillbilly' feud

Teenager (15) struck unconscious man on head with shovel during Offaly 'hillbilly' feud

Sentencing hearing took place at Tullamore Circuit Court

A FIFTEEN-year-old boy was the most culpable of several people involved in a violent incident in Tullamore which resulted in one man sustaining a fractured skull.

Tullamore Circuit Court heard the teenager, who turned 16 shortly after the incident in Arden View on April 9 last year, struck a man on the head with the sharp edge of a shovel as he lay unconscious on a public road.

The teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, was one of six accused who appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson for sentence.

He had previously pleaded guilty to violent disorder and assault causing harm and his victim, Mark Power, 41, had admitted a charge of violent disorder. Mr Power's son Sean, aged 19, admitted violent disorder and damaging a car.

Another father and son, James McCarthy, 50, and John McCarthy, 22, pleaded guilty to violent disorder, as did 21-year-old James Ward.

A seventh man was also scheduled to be sentenced but when he did not appear in court Judge Johnson issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Detective Pat O'Connell told the court that the incident began on the afternoon of April 9 when the window of a car belonging to Thomas Power was smashed after he drove into Arden View.

Within a short time a large group had gathered and Thomas Power reversed his car back along the road at one point.

The two gardai first on the scene, Garda Liam Daly and Garda Michael Clancy, had to call for assistance.

Weapons were being carried and in addition to the shovel which the juvenile had, James Ward was seen with a golf club and James and John McCarthy had sticks.

Another man, who was not in court for sentence, was seen swinging both a stick and a hurley, said Det Garda O'Connell.

A 40-second video clip which had been recorded at the scene and circulated on social media was viewed by Judge Johnson in court and Det Garda O'Connell identified the participants and their actions, saying the juvenile could be seen striking down with the shovel with force.

Judge Johnson condemned what he called the “hillbilly activity” saying it was wholly unacceptable that it should happen in this day and age in a local estate.

He said it reminded him of the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys (a 19th century dispute between two families in West Virginia and Kentucky, US) and remarked: “I thought we'd moved on considerably in the 21st century from that type of primitive fighting but apparently not.”

He added: “This type of feuding is intolerable in a civilised society and is not acceptable and will not be accepted going forward. Any continuance of this feud will automatically attract significant custodial sentence for all of the participants.”

He said the residents of the area were clearly terrorised in what was “an extremely aggressive and violent incident that happened over a relatively short period of time”.

Though Mark Power was involved in the incident himself, the court had sympathy for him, said the judge.

“It was an extremely violent and vicious assault and it's very fortunate that Mr Power didn't suffer fatal injuries as a consequence of that attack.”

He said a feature of such feuds is that they go back a long time and often people cannot remember how they began and in this case “Arden View became a powder keg and it took a very tiny spark to set it off”.

He noted that some of those involved had moved away from the area and said that should reduce the risk of reoffending.

The court also heard that the participants were also involved in mediation and they were ordered to continue doing so.

The whole incident was a “moment of madness”, said the judge, and in sentencing the defendants, he had to balance the needs of society and the needs of the accused.

He said that Mark Power and James McCarthy were the heads of their respective families and they bore special responsibility to set an example.

Mark Power had 22 previous convictions, including convictions for drugs offences, public order, dangerous driving, and in 2013, assault causing harm.

As a result of the assault on him by the juvenile he had to be brought to hospital by ambulance where he had eight sutures, was kept overnight, and had fractures to the skull and around an eye, bleeding on the brain and a fractured nose. He was recovering from the injuries and had spent seven weeks in custody.

The court heard that James McCarthy was a native of Mayo who had also spent seven weeks in custody and had a previous conviction for assault back in 1998.

Both men received two-and-a-half year jail suspended sentences and were ordered to keep the peace for 10 years and continue to engage in mediation.

The court heard the juvenile had suffered a significant tragedy in his family when he was very young and a psychological report was ordered for him.

He had also spent time in custody since the incident, including the Christmas period, when his bail was revoked.

Sentencing of him was adjourned to December 7 after he entered into a peace bond and on condition he continue to reside with his mother away from the area of the incident and sign on three days a week at Tullamore Garda Station.

Sentencing of James Ward, Castle Court, Daingean, Sean Power, Arden View and John McCarthy, Puttaghaun Close, was also adjourned to December 7.

Sean Power, who was 18 at the time of the incident, had previously paid for damaging a car belonging to Martina McCarthy and in a victim impact statement, Ms McCarthy said she had been having sleepless nights since.

Judge Johnson was told Sean Power had trained as a barber and he read an excellent work reference for him.

The judge said Sean Power's offending was an aberation and came after the vicious assault on his father and when he had seen his father gurgling and throwing up blood while he lay on the ground.

Sean Power was ordered to pay €1,500 to the Tullamore Garda Fusion Project by December 7.

James Ward, the father of a six-month old baby, had come from a difficult family background and the judge praised his ability to rise above that by involving himself in training through the Garda Youth Diversion Project and in construction.

Though he had a golf club during the incident there was no evidence he had used it and the judge said he was unlikely to reoffend. He was ordered to pay €1,500 to the Acorn Project in Edenderry.

Judge Johnson said that John McCarthy's involvement was also an aberration and he was a married man whose passion was for horses.

He had got involved because he thought his home was under attack but now accepted there was no basis for that belief.

The court had heard he sustained a hand injury during the incident and the garda evidence was that he said at the time he “broke it off that lad on the floor”.

Finalisation of his sentence was also adjourned to December 7 and he was ordered to pay €1,300 towards the damage to Thomas Power's car.

Judge Johnson warned that any recurrence of the offending at any time would result in custodial sentences being imposed.

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