Longford ex-soldier told he faces 'eating turkey in Mountjoy'

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

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liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Longford District Court: Ballymahon man convicted of dangerous driving

Longford District Court

A former Longford based soldier who assaulted his neighbour during a late night incident that left her with a “lifetime scar” has been told he must come up with €2,000 in compensation by December or face four months in prison.

Martin Whitton (55), 67 Farneyhoogan, Athlone Road, Longford had already handed in €1,000 as an ex gratia payment to his victim Carol Cunningham at last week’s District Court sitting.

The ex-Defence Forces member had earlier pleaded guilty to assaulting Ms Cunningham causing her harm contrary to Section 3 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

The incident, it emerged, took place at Ms Cunningham’s home on September 23 last year after she herself took to the witness stand to explain what happened.

She said Mr Whitton had arrived at her house on the night of the incident with a bottle of alcohol.

The pair, she added, shared a couple of drinks before Ms Cunningham walked the short distance to Mr Whitton’s home where she consumed one further drink before returning to her own house.

Moments later, she said she heard a knock at her door.

“I was just getting ready for bed,” she said.

“I thought he (Mr Whitton) had forgotten something but he sat down.

“I thought it was too late and within minutes I got assaulted.”

Ms Cunningham told Judge Hughes she had no idea as to why Mr Whitton would wish to harm her, adding though that she felt “uncomfortable” with the way he was talking.

“My head was bashed off the fireplace. He just pushed me,” she added.

“My face came into contact with his fists.”

Wearing a blue jumper and striped shirt with his hands behind his back, Mr Whitton rejected Ms Cunningham’s version of events, shouting: “That’s a lie your honour, that never happened.”

Judge Hughes was more keen, it seemed to press Ms Cunningham as to what injuries she sustained as a result of the altercation.

She said she received two breakages to a cheekbone that caused her to spend time in both the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar and St James’ Hospital in Dublin.

Ms Cunningham said she underwent an operation around two weeks later and has since experienced “endless” appointments between Mullingar, St James’ and her own GP.

Quizzed about if she had any lasting after effects from her ordeal, Ms Cunningham told Judge Hughes she had difficulties both sleeping and with her breathing.

Equally, she told of how the incident, given the proximity of her alleged assailant, had made daily life increasingly difficult for her.

“He’s (Mr Whitton) a neighbour and I have to pass him every time I leave my house,” she said.

After running the rule over a medical report handed in to the court, Judge Hughes accepted jurisdiction, allowing the case to be heard in the District Court.

On foot of that announcement, a brief adjournment in the case followed before defence solicitor Frank Gearty returned to add his client had €1,000 to hand in as a measure of compensation.

Judge Hughes said he was willing to accept the sum as an “ex gratia gesture of remorse”.

In the midst of all that, the court was informed Mr Whitton had 14 previous convictions on his record, two of which were for common assault and a section two assault.

They dated back to 1991 and 2013 respectively with the remaining convictions mostly linked to alcohol related public order incidents.

Mr Gearty said his client was a separated father of two who had previously served in the Defence Forces both at Connolly Barracks and along the border.

Originally from Moydow, Mr Gearty accepted all of Mr Whitton’s previous transgressions emanated from alcohol, pausing to reveal his health was a cause for concern.

Judge Hughes, at that stage, asked Mr Whitton if he wished to convey his remorse to Ms Cunningham publically.

“I am sorry Carol,” he said, while hinting her injuries were brought about after he was spooked by her dog.

“Myself and Carol were friends for a long time.

“She had a pup, a lovely pup but he jumped on top of me and I fell back.

“That’s in her statement.”

Ms Cunningham, without haste, rejected Mr Whitton’s claims.

“No, it’s not in my statement,” she told the court, asking Mr Whitton himself if he had read her testimony.

Clearly aggrieved by that, Mr Whitton alleged Ms Cunningham had turned up at his house a couple of weeks later on October 8 drunk and made “bits of” his windows at the rear of his property.

It was an assersion which was quickly dismissed by Judge Hughes.

“He’s not a bit sorry,” he said.

“When will you have another €1,000 for me?

“If you don’t (hand it in) you will be eating the turkey in Mountjoy.”

“On December 12 I want another €1,000 for this person (Ms Cunningham) and you will have it for me won’t you?”

Mr Whitton, taking his time to respond, stated in a muted voice: “I will try.”

As he adjourned the case and warned Mr Gearty to instruct his client he was facing a four month prison sentence if he failed to abide by the court’s ruling, Judge Hughes once again had sobering words for Mr Whitton.

“If you come up with it on that day I won’t send you to prison.

“The reason I say that is you don’t have much remorse inside you.

“The injuries this woman received are extremely serious.

“She has been left with a lifetime scar and she has to live with that for the rest of her life.”