Four men who pleaded guilty to violent disorder and criminal damage following a seven day trial that collapsed at Longford Circuit Court in February received suspended prison sentences at a circuit court hearing last week.
Paddy Stokes (52), 21 Dun Darrach, Dublin Road, Longford; Patrick Stokes (27), 2 Cussan, Lisbrack Road, Longford; Tommy Stokes (50), 39 Palace Crescent, Longford and Gary Stokes (27), 42 Palace Crescent,Longford appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson charged with violent disorder and criminal damage at Dillon’s Bar, Ballinamuck in March 2015.
During his deliberations on the matter, Judge Keenan Johnson said there was no way the court would ever be able to compensate the victims in the way that they should be, because the defendants’ did not have the financial resources to do so.
“Each of the accused are equally culpable,” he added.
Opening matters back in February Mr John Barnes, Counsel for the State said the case centred around a 50th birthday party for Paddy Stokes that took place in the north Longford bar in March of 2015.
“A fracas broke out on that night and several people were injured as a result,” he added.
“Damage was caused at the premises and two men were assaulted.”
In his direct evidence to the court, Garda Liam Staunton said that when he arrived at the scene following an order to attend Dillon’s in Ballinamuck where a disturbance had taken place on the night in question, he was met with a scene of carnage.
He said he met with James Mongan who had cuts on the left hand side of his head.
“One of the cuts was so severe, there was a deep piece of flesh hanging from it,” added Garda Staunton before pointing out that the injured party was also covered in blood.
“Anthony Mongan was also seriously injured.
“Members of the Mongan family said they were assaulted by the Stokes family.”
The court was then told that after further investigation, Garda Staunton discovered the ladies toilets at the premises covered in blood, glass strewn across the floors and damage caused to doors and other fixtures and fittings.
“There was blood everywhere - the scene was horrific,” added the Garda.
“James and Anthony Mongan were taken away from the scene by ambulance and taken to hospital.”
The injured parties, the court was told, while slow in coming forward to give statements in respect of the matter to the Gardaí, eventually did so.
During their direct evidence to the court, the Mongan brothers said they had no idea how the fracas started but James was the first to be assaulted and when Anthony went to assist him, he too became injured.
They stated clearly in their evidence that they were stabbed with glass and beaten, and were in fear for their lives throughout the ordeal.
Anthony, the court heard, eventually managed to grab his brother and the pair got to safety by barricading themselves into a toilet cubicle.
James lost consciousness at that point, the court was told.
On day seven, when the trial eventually collapsed Judge Johnson was critical of the way in which the trial had been handled by the State.
He said he had been led to believe proceedings would last only three to four days and yet they continued on until day seven at which point the trial collapsed due to a number of factors.
“It is not satisfactory,” the Judge told Mr Barnes BL at the time.
“This is the first time this has happened in my career, however it will not be a complete waste of time if these men do the right thing.”
Following a 30 minute break, the defendants and their four barristers returned to the courtroom where they pleaded guilty to the charges before the court.
Meanwhile, last week, the victim impact statements of Patrick Anthony Mongan and James Mongan were read to the court.
Patrick Anthony Mongan said that as a result of the assault, he suffered facial and head injuries and got eight staples in his head.
“Before the attack I suffered from depression and anxiety and since the attack I now suffer more from depression and anxiety,” he added.
“I don’t sleep well at night and I get panic attacks; I have broken down on several occasions since that incident.”
Mr Mongan went on to say that he now has trust issues when interacting with people and is “fearful” over what happened to him that night in Dillon’s Bar.
“That night was meant to be a happy occasion and it was a completely unprovoked attack on my brother and I,” he continued, before pointing out that he had been violently set upon and felt that the Stokes’ were going to kill his brother on the night.
James Mongan’s victim impact statement was then read into the court record.
In his statement, Mr Mongan said that he received 23 stitches to his head following the assault and had bruising to his chest.
“I felt traumatised and mutilated for my brother and myself,” he continued before indicating that he can still remember the warm blood filling his eyes that night.
“I thought I was dying and the doctor recommended that I go on tablets for my nerves and anxiety after that.”
Mr Mongan went on to say that he refused to take pills because he had been informed they were addictive and as a result of that advice, he was fearful of them.
“The physical and emotional scars of what happened that night will be with me for the rest of my life,” he said.
“I don’t go to Longford [town] anymore except for appointments and I fear for myself and my wife’s safety.
“I don’t allow people to take pictures of me because I am conscious of my scars and my marriage has not been the same since the incident.”
Meanwhile, the court heard that following the incident back in March 2015, James Mongan slept in a separate room to his wife because his panic attacks in the middle of the night were frightening her.
“At night time I relive the incident,” he then confirmed.
Counsel for the four accused - Mr Patrick Murphy BL representing Tommy Stokes; Mr Shane Geraghty BL for Gary Stokes; Mr Gerald Groarke BL on behalf of Paddy Stokes and Kieran Murphy BL representing Patrick Stokes - then endeavoured to mitigate on behalf of their clients’ behalf.
The court heard that the defendants’ had gathered together the sum of €2,000 by means of recompense to the injured parties and nobody on the night of the incident had set out with intent to do what was done.
The court was also told that all defendants had previous convictions - some of which were more serious than others.
Mr Patrick Murphy BL told the court that Tommy Stokes was the father of eight children and was unemployed.
He also said that Mr Dillon had been compensated by the four accused to the tune of €2,500.
“My client accepts his role in the events of that night and it is an incident that should never have happened,” continued Counsel.
“None of the four accused went out that night with an intention for this to happen and there was certainly no premeditation on the part of Mr Stokes do what he did that night.
“While he has six previous convictions it has been 10 years since he last came to garda attention.”
The court went on to hear that Mr Stokes engaged with the Gardaí in respect of the incident and did enter a guilty plea.
“Nothing will excuse his behaviour that night, however Mr Stokes comes before this court accepting responsibility and with €500 in compensation for the victims,” said Mr Murphy BL.
Mr Geraghty, meanwhile told Judge Johnson that Gary Stokes had admitted he was at Dillon’s Bar on the night in question because it was his uncle’s 50th birthday party.
“It can never be said, however, that Mr Stokes went to the party with a pre-meditated wish to assault the men that night,” continued Counsel.
“He is due to get married next February and has a two-month-old baby.”
The court was then told that Mr Stokes accepted culpability and wished to apologise to the injured parties.
“He too has accumulated €500 for the injured parties and has assured me there was no premeditated intent on the night,” added Mr Geraghty.
“It is clear that something happened that night; it was barbaric, a bloodbath, but we have pleaded guilty and offered remorse.
“This is the first time that Mr Stokes has found himself before the Circuit Court facing quite severe penalties.”
Meanwhile, the court was told that Mr Stokes had expressed genuine remorse to the proprietor of Dillon’s Bar and he unequivocally apologised to the victims in the case.
“He wants to get on with his life now and doesn’t want to engage in any adverse action with these men,” Mr Geraghty concluded.
In relation to Paddy Stokes, Counsel said that his client’s 50th birthday party should have been a celebration, instead it became something entirely different.
“It is fair to say there was a lot more people involved in the incident than just the four men before the court,” said Mr Groarke BL.
“Paddy Stokes is a separated man; has eight children and is unemployed.
“He accepts his wrongdoing and offers €500 today to the Mongan gentlemen.”
The court heard that Mr Stokes also offered genuine remorse to the victims over what happened that night and he had not come to gardaí attention since the incident.
Mr Kieran Murphy BLfor Patrick Stokes then told the court in mitigation that his client was a 28-year-old man with three young children.
“He cooperated with the Gardaí in relation to this investigation and he has instructed me to offer an apology to both injured parties and to Mr Dillon,” he added.
“My client realises the serious consequences of what happened that night and in particular to the injured parties and has €500 for them here in court.
“He hasn’t drank alcohol for the last six months.”
During his deliberations on the matter, Judge Johnson described the incident on the night in question as a “serious breach of the peace”.
“There was,” he added, “A serious row in the ladies toilet”.
He continued, “Mr Dillon said that when he entered the toilet it was a scene of carnage and it is very clear to this court that Patrick and James Mongan were seriously injured.”
Judge Johnson said the offences before the court were of a serious nature and a “source of grave concern” to him.
“It is clear that the Mongans have been adversely affected by what happened that night and in addition the psychological effects of the assault are horrendous,” the Judge continued, before pointing out that they were “broken men” as a result of what happened to them on that night in March 2015.
“This was a serious breach of the peace and something this court must endeavour to stamp out.
“These men pleaded not guilty and on the seventh day of the trial they pleaded guilty.
“The trial had to be aborted at that stage because we ran out of time and if a re-trial had taken place, it would have taken two to three weeks to conclude.”
Judge Johnson then pointed out that the aggravating factors in the case included the fact that glasses had been used as weapons and the scene had been described as being like an abattoir.
“Each of the accused has previous convictions, some more significant than others, however the mitigating factors do include the plea of guilt, even though it came late in the day,” the Judge continued.
“The victims told the truth and they can leave this court with their heads held high because they told the truth.
“It is arguable that Tommy and Paddy Stokes, being the elders here, should not have behaved like that - they should have acted as peacemakers that night and it is obvious the amount of alcohol taken contributed to what happened; these men became out of control and really they should be asking themselves should they be drinking at all.”
On the criminal damage charges, Judge Johnson subsequently imposed a sentence of two years on each of the accused and ordered probation reports to determine their suitability for community service.
“If they are deemed suitable, then I will impose 240 hours in lieu of the prison sentence,” the Judge confirmed.
Meanwhile, on the violent disorder charges the four accused were sentenced to four years in prison which the Judge subsequently suspended on the grounds they enter a bond to keep the peace and have no contact whatsoever with any of the victims in the case.
They were also ordered to pay €6,000 to the injured parties, €2,000 of which was accepted by the court from the accused men last week.
The Judge ordered that the Mongans receive €1,000 each of that money and before concluding matters he paid compliment to Garda Liam Staunton for the “professional” manner in which he handled the case.
“This was a difficult case Garda Staunton and I want to pay compliment to you and the Gardaí for the professional way in which the matter was handled,” Judge Johnson concluded.