Midlands man accused of stabbing nephew walks free from court

Longford man cleared of assaulting family member following four day trial

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A man has been found not guilty of stabbing his nephew following a late night drink and drug-fuelled incident in Longford town almost a year and a half ago.

Martin Stokes, with an address at 88 Springlawn, Longford was acquitted last week of carrying out a Section 3 assault causing harm to Gerald Stokes at Palace Crescent on September 11, 2016.

Mr Stokes had pleaded not guilty to the sole charge before Judge John Hannon which resulted in a near four day trial at Longford Circuit Criminal Court.

Prosecuting Counsel Shane Geraghty BL outlined to the court at the outset that it would be alleged the injured party, Gerald Stokes was out socialising in Longford town on the night of the incident.

Later that evening, Mr Stokes, he added, went back to his cousin’s Patrick ‘Flick’ Stokes’ house to watch a boxing match on TV.

The middleweight unification encounter between British boxer Kell Brook and Gennady Golovkin, attracted a number of Mr Stokes’ close relations to also take in the pay-per-view clash at his cousin’s household.

Among them were his brothers Michael and Brian, otherwise known as ‘Barney’ and cousins Michael ‘Red’ Stokes, Joe Stokes, Patrick ‘Flick’ Stokes and Michael Doyle.

Also there was his uncle Martin, two other women, including Patrick Stokes’ wife Helen Marie, who were in the kitchen area of the house and the couple’s children who were upstairs in bed.

Upon the fight’s completion, the group minus their Uncle retired to Brian Stokes’ car which was parked in a driveway a few doors down.

It was the prosecution’s case that Mr Stokes approached the car sometime after armed with a knife where he assaulted his nephew, stabbing him once across the neck while also inflicting another wound to the top of Gerald Stokes’ head.

The injuries resulted in Mr Stokes requiring 17 to 18 stitches to his neck, leaving him with a permanent scar.

Taking to the witness stand on the first day of the trial last week, Mr Stokes said he had been drinking in McKeon’s Bar in Longford town with his cousin Michael Doyle earlier that evening.

He told the court that after around five pints he spoke to his cousin Patrick ‘Flick’ Stokes who invited him to watch the fight back at his house.

After purchasing cans of alcohol, the pair took up the offer where they were joined by the rest of the party.

When the fight was over, Mr Stokes said he and the group continued drinking and taking drugs in his brother Brian’s car.

This came after his cousin Patrick ‘Flick’ Stokes and his wife “had a few words”.

However, when asked to recall what happened to him next, Mr Stokes said all he could recall was the injuries he sustained to his head and neck areas.

“At first I thought it was Martin (who inflicted injuries) but now I can’t be sure it was him,” he told the court.

“I know I made a statement (saying) that it was him but I was on serious drugs.

“I wouldn’t be 100 per cent and I don’t want to send an innocent man to prison.”

When pressed further by Mr Geraghty, Mr Stokes said a combination of alcohol, cocaine and sedatives or ‘D10s’ may have clouded his thinking.

“I was drunk and stoned,” he said. “I was in a different world. It could have been anyone.”

Mr Geraghty asked why Mr Stokes failed to mention taking any drugs on the night of the alleged incident as he read out his original statement given to investigating officer, Sgt Declan McGlynn less than 24 hours afterwards.

In the course of that exchange, Mr Geraghty reminded Mr Stokes how he described his uncle coming out of the house and approaching the car he and the others were sitting in.

After getting out of the back seat, Mr Stokes told Sgt McGlynn that his uncle had grabbed him in a headlock “and with his free hand reached in and cut my neck”.

Mr Geraghty continued, revealing his statement at the time claimed his uncle also hit him over the head with the knife before attempting to launch a third onslaught as Mr Stokes’ cousin, Michael Doyle pushed him away.

“You told Sgt McGlynn: ‘I am now in fear of him (Martin Stokes) after the two cuts he gave me,” said Mr Geraghty.

“Martin Stokes is a dangerous, mad man .”

Mr Stokes’ two brothers Michael and Brian said they too could not be sure of the identity of who carried out the alleged assault despite both, in their own statements, clearly identifying Martin Stokes as the culprit.

Those denials prompted Mr Geraghty to make a Section 16 application under the Criminal Justice Act and to treat all three as hostile witnesses.

The former was a stipulation brought in by then Justice Minister Michael McDowell in 2006 on foot of the collapse of Limerick gangster Liam Keane three years previously.

Mr Keane, who was on trial for murder, walked free from court after six prosecution witnesses denied making statements central to the case against him.

Under Section 16 of the Act, statements can be admitted where the witness later denies the contents, as long as the court was satisfied that the original statement was made voluntarily and was reliable.

Judge John Hannon ruled in favour of that application despite claims from defence counsel Gerald Groarke the move could open up the possibility of convicting his client on paper statements and not evidence given from the witness box.

Testimonies were also given by Michael Doyle, Patrick ‘Flick’ Stokes and Joe Stokes, none of whom could pinpoint Martin Stokes as the aggressor on the night.

There was evidence too from Thomas Oliver Keenan and his wife Bernadette, neighbours who ferried Gerald Stokes to Midoc , a GP out of hours service soon after the alleged incident.

Bernadette Stokes, Gerald Stokes’ mother gave evidence of having come across the weapon suspected of having been used in the melee.

She described the knife, which she later handed over to gardaí, as being “long” with a yellow handle.

The State’s case also heard direct evidence from Detective Gardaí Clive Glancy and Orla Geraghty.

They told the court seeing the accused standing inside the door of 22 Palace Crescent at around 1:25am before shouting: “It was only a scratch, the next time I will kill him.”

Sgt Declan McGlynn said he arrested Mr Stokes on September 12 at 10:35pm and interviewed him the following morning accompanied by Garda Colm Satchwell.

As he read out extracts of Mr Stokes’ interview to the court, Mr Geraghty told the court the accused indicated to gardaí he had become irritated at the drug taking that was going on in the house.

“I had six cans of Budweiser. They were taking coke (cocaine). I was upset for the kids. I didn’t want the kids of Helen Marie to be upset.

“I was annoyed at them running up and down the stairs taking coke as the kids were upstairs.”

Mr Geraghty, in continuing to relay excerpts of the interview, said Mr Stokes denied any knowledge of who or how his nephew was stabbed.

“It’s a load of crap,” he said, when pressed over his alleged involvement.

“I don’t know (who is responsible). I didn’t stab Gerry, I think the world of Gerry.”

Asked why accusations over his supposed culpability had come his way in the immediate aftermath of the incident, Mr Stokes implied third parties were at play in influencing the minds of those at the scene.

“My wife, Margaret Stokes has them all brainwashed. Whatever she says is right,” he told gardaí.

“I am innocent. I didn’t do it, that’s all I have to say.”

Defence Counsel Gerard Groarke asked if Mr Stokes was suspected of having committed the offence why wasn’t the clothes he was allegedly wearing on the night seized for forensic analysis.

Sgt Mary Mangan was likewise questioned by Mr Groarke over what, if any evidence, was found on the knife which was allegedly used in the incident.

She said despite follow up examinations revealing a “partial fingerpint ”, no evidence could be found to suggest it belonged to Mr Stokes.

In their closing arguments to the jury last Friday, Mr Geraghty and Mr Groarke both attempted to impress upon the jury the strength of their respective submissions.

The former began his address by referring to the “unusual feature” which surrounded the contradictory evidence given by the State’s three main witnesses, Gerald, Michael and Brian Stokes.

In referring back to the court’s earlier ruling to allow all three witnesses initial statements to be presented as evidence, Mr Geraghty indicated there was no ambiguity as to Mr Stokes’ guilt.

He said admissions made by the victim saying he was “now in fear” of his uncle after “the two cuts he gave me” was indisputable evidence.

He insisted there was a motive too, illustrated by Mr Stokes’ annoyance that drug taking was going on inside the house, something which prompted him to take the law into his own hands.

His opposite number, Mr Groarke opened his closing speech by asking the jury to put themselves in the shoes of his client.

“They (three State witnesses) make statements a year and a half ago and that’s what’s now being used to convict you, adding that all the State had to go on was a “piece of paper written up a year and a half ago”.

He continued: “None of the three witnesses say they know who did it, so how on earth do you know?”

In his charge to the jury, Judge John Hannon confirmed the three State witnesses were now being treated as ‘hostile’ witnesses due to “material inconsistencies” between the trio’s statements and direct oral evidence.

Critically, he said it was up to them to assess the credibility of each when determining if the defendant was guilty or not guilty.
Shortly before 4:30pm on Friday, a knock came on the jury’s door culminating in a unanimous not guilty verdict being read out.