28 Jan 2022

Men in 'hillbilly activity' in Offaly make payments in court

Tullamore Circuit courtroom

Men are making payments after eruption of Tullamore feud

THREE young men are paying €1,500 each to policing projects arising from their involvement in what a judge said earlier this year was “hillbilly activity” in Tullamore.

John McCarthy, 22, Puttaghaun Close, James Ward, 21, Castle Court, Daingean, and Sean Power, 19, Arden View, Tullamore previously pleaded guilty to violent disorder in Arden View on April 9, 2020.

Sentencing was adjourned for payments to be made to garda youth diversion projects and when the men appeared before Tullamore Circuit Court last week, Judge Keenan Johnson heard the money was available.

A fourth man, Michael Sweeney, 19, Arden View, who was convicted of violent disorder and assaulting Thomas Power, is on bail and has been ordered to pay €1,500 to a men's shed project by May 10, 2022.

In July, the court had been told of a feud between two different groups in the town which erupted into violence on a road in Arden View and resulted in seven people being prosecuted and convicted.

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 first two gardai on the scene had to call for assistance because a variety of weapons were being carried by those involved, including sticks, a bar, a golf club, a hurley and a shovel.

A video was recorded at the scene and the court heard that in it, a juvenile, now aged 16, could be seen striking a 41-year-old man, Mark Power, on the head with a shovel.

The teenage male, who cannot be named because of his age, has spent time in custody following his conviction for violent disorder and assault causing harm.

Mark Power, Arden View, has already received a two-and-a-half year suspended jail sentence and has been ordered to keep the peace for 10 years and continue to engage in mediation.

Another man, James McCarthy, 50, father of John McCarthy and also with an address in Arden View, received a similar suspended sentence.

At the sentencing hearing in July, Judge Johnson condemned the behaviour of all the defendants, 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.

The court heard that as a result of the assault on him by the juvenile, Mark Power had to be brought to hospital by ambulance where he received eight sutures, was kept overnight, had fractures to the skull and around an eye, bleeding on the brain and a fractured nose.

The current sitting of Tullamore Circuit Court heard there had been no further related incidents and there were applications to Judge Johnson for James Ward, John McCarthy and Sean Power to be left without convictions by the court's use of Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Judge Johnson was told by Kevin White, BL, prosecuting, that Section 1.1 of the Probation Act, which would leave the men without a conviction, did not transfer to the Circuit Court.

Mr White said that if the judge applied Section 1.2 of the Probation Act the men would have convictions recorded against them.

Barristers defending the men submitted that Section 100 of the Criminal Justice Act could be used and it would result in no convictions being recorded.

Judge Johnson was told that Sean Power wished to go to Australia and Mr McCarthy's wish was to join the army.

Mr White said it was his understanding that the use of Section 100 would not leave the men without convictions.

Judge Johnson said there was genuine remorse on the part of the three men and they had made an effort to make recompense and had not wasted any court time.

He said leaving them with convictions would be “disproportionate” and a “stain” and because they were all relatively young that would be a “gross injustice”.

He said he was inclined to agree with one counsel for Mr Ward, Willie Hughes, BL, who told the court that a judge in another part of the country used Section 100 “quite frequently”.

The men are on bail and finalisation of the sentencing has been adjourned.

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