Walking stick used in Edgeworthstown street fracas

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie

Edgeworthstown

Edgeworthstown's Main Street, the scene of an alleged incident violent disorder a year and a half ago.

Four women who were involved in a fracas in the middle of Edgeworthstown a year and a half ago are to be bound to the peace by Judge Seamus Hughes.

Johanna Stokes (22) and Jane Marian Ward (22), of Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown together with Noreen and Shannon Stokes, of 2 Auburn Park, Edgeworthstown pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder at Main Street, Edgeworthstown on December 14 2016.

A fifth person, Margaret Stokes (42), Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown, was cleared of violent disorder after her role in the incident was deemed to have been minor at best by Judge Hughes.

The incident in question took place at a local chip shop shortly after 9pm.

Brid Mimnagh, acting for Noreen and Shannon Stokes said the row escalated moments after her clients had been “verbally attacked” as they attempted to buy food from the fast food outlet.

She said by this stage Noreen, who was by now sitting in a car parked outside, became agitated by the “very concerned” disposition of her daughter, Shannon, who exited the restaurant.

Ms Mimnagh said it was her contention that the other three co-accused, Johanna Stokes, Margaret Stokes and Jane Marion Ward proceeded to try and confront Shannon Stokes, prompting her mother to pull a walking stick from the boot of the car.

She added the stick was soon taken off her as a melee broke out on the footpath.

“Noreen swings it (stick) and it is then taken off her by Johanna who uses it violently,” claimed Ms Mimnagh.

The results of that intervention, she added, culminated in injuries being inflicted to Noreen Stokes’ left hand as well as a number of cuts and bruises.

Fiona Baxter, for Johanna Stokes and Jane Marion Ward rejected much of what her legal colleague had told the court.

She repeatedly asked Judge Hughes to view CCTV footage of the row which, she maintained, would shed greater spotlight on the situation.

“After this incident Mrs Stokes walks back into the chipper,” she said, while stressing the role played by Margaret Stokes was minimal to say the least.

“Margaret Stokes only becomes involved in the incident at the very end and has no other part in it to separate others.”

Ms Baxter said the video would clearly show her clients acting in “self defence” in an attempt to shield themselves from a weapon which was being thrust in their direction.

“Margaret Stokes only came into the incident at the very, very end to separate them,” explained Ms Baxter.

“Jane Marion Ward is five months pregnant at the time. Her only involvement was when she came out of the chipper and saw Johanna Stokes being attacked and then throws a loaf of bread at Ms Mimnagh’s client.”

That, she asserted, was her only involvement before going to the other side of the road and away from the centre of the disturbance.

Despite her clients concerns for their own safety, she said the pair had no problem with being bound to the peace.

When that proposition was put to Noreen Stokes, it seemed the case might drag on.

“Noreen Stokes wants to plead not guilty,” said Ms Mimnagh, an inference Judge Hughes was quick to take aim at.

“That’s fine,” he firmly replied. “But anything that flows from that carries 12 months.

“I want to bring about peace today and for the forseeable future.

“The last thing I want to do is send two or three of you or all of you up to the Women’s Prison (Dochas Centre) where you will be meeting every day.”

Judge Hughes endeavoured to impress those feelings on both sides and their legal teams as he indicated his preference to issue a peace bond on all parties.

“At the end of the day both solicitors want an acquittal and you will get that after 12 months with your money back, so it’s a win win for everybody,” he said.

When the case resumed after being let stand and after Judge Hughes viewed the footage, Noreen Stokes claimed there were other issues going on in the background and mentioned Facebook as a means of stoking those fires.

Judge Hughes said the recording taken from the scene on the night made for grim viewing and proved beyond all reasonable doubt that “all were equally guilty”.

In describing the behaviour on display as “totally unacceptable”, Judge Hughes said he was satisfied Margaret Stokes’ involvement was insignificant, causing him to dismiss the charge against her.

In adjourning the case against the other four women until September 4, Judge Hughes said he was opting for that measure to allow the quartet time to summon €500 each for the purposes of a cash peace bond.