Longford court hears of how father of two was threatened to be burnt out of home

'The only apology I want is a four figure sum' says Longford judge

A man who threatened to burn another man’s house down during a row outside the victim’s home is to appeal a ten week sentence handed down at a recent sitting of Longford District Court.

At an initial hearing Kevin Stokes, Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford pleaded guilty to using threatening and abusive behaviour at Royal Canal Park, Longford following an incident on July 16 2017.

That resulted in Mr Stokes being told to come up with €2,000 compensation or face a spell behind bars.

It was alleged by the prosecution that Mr Stokes pulled up in a black jeep outside the home of Will McKeon as the father of two was in the process of flying a drone.

Sgt Paddy McGirl said the 45-year-old accused soon exited the vehicle and made his way towards Mr McKeon, accusing him of alleging that one of Mr Stokes’s children had been caught shoplifting.

Mr McKeon, the court was told, had come across Mr Stokes and a number of his children during a previous incident while he was carrying out his duties as a security guard in Penney’s in Mullingar.

Sgt McGirl said after Mr Stokes got out of his vehicle he challenged Mr McKeon, telling him: “You are not so brave now.”

Seconds later, it was alleged two of Mr Stokes’ sons and his wife Margaret Stokes exited the vehicle and also became abusive.

Kevin and Margaret Stokes, who were represented in court by local solicitor John Quinn, pleaded guilty to engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour at Royal Canal Park, Longford on July 16, 2017.

Mr Stokes attempted to elaborate on those admissions by claiming he and the victim had known each other for some time.
“He went around with me all my life since gosoons,” said Mr Stokes.

Margaret Stokes, also of Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown, said one of the reasons for her behaviour on the night was because of her grievance at being accused of shoplifting.

Mr Stokes insisted the reason why he had initially approached Mr McKeon was to ask him about the drone he was flying.

When the victim declined to interact with him, that’s when Mr Stokes said he became annoyed.

“He didn’t talk to me and yes there was abusive language,” he said, while alluding to how his own house had been the subject of a gun attack less than 24 hours before the court sitting in an unrelated incident.

Mr Stokes rubbished claims one of Mr McKeon’s children had been present at the time, adding that he had also been threatened with a gun.

“I promise you I saw no child.

“I’m not sick in the head,” he said.Mr Stokes admitted during the course of his exchange with Mr McKeon, he accused him of having a penchant for stealing women’s underwear.

Almost as soon as Mr Stokes made that insinuation, Judge Hughes said it was a regular “modus operandi” of the accused to try and save his own skin.

“We are not trying to influence anything,” insisted Mr Quinn.

When the case resumed after lunch, the court was told Ms Stokes wished to change her plea, something which Judge Hughes said he was loathe to accept.

Taking the stand, Mr McKeon said he had been standing outside his home after flying his drone when Mr Stokes pulled up before approaching him alongside two of his sons.

“He said he knew where I lived, he knew who my wife was,” said Mr McKeon.

“He threatened to burn me out of it.”

Under questioning from Judge Hughes, Mr McKeon said there had been an incident in the past which had involved his duties as a security guard in Penney’s of Mullingar.

The court was told accusations had been levelled against Mrs Stokes and some of her children but no charges were ever brought.

Mr McKeon described Mr Stokes’ manner on the night as being “very aggressive”, branding his two sons actions as being “pretty much the same”.

Following that incident, Mr McKeon said he installed CCTV equipment at his home and became fearful for his children’s safety.

Judge Hughes also asked him if Mr Stokes’ claims concerning allegations that he had amassed a reputation for stealing women’s underwear had any foundation.

Mr McKeon flatly denied the claims.

Judge Hughes took a dim view of Mr Stokes' suggestions, telling Mr McKeon while still in the witness box that the accused had made a “serious allegation defaming you behind your back.”

Before ruling on the case, Judge Hughes was told Mr Stokes had 19 previous convictions and fined Mrs Stokes €250, giving her three months to pay.

“I’m sorry to Willie,” said Mr Stokes. “I will never look at him again.”

That offer was roundly rejected by the judge, who replied, “The only apology I want is a four figure sum.”

He also questioned why the DPP had saw fit to only issue a Section 6 public order charge against Mr Stokes, adding, “The cunningness of this defendant requires the maximum sentence of three months in prison.”

Despite Mr Quinn insisting his client had pleaded guilty, Judge Hughes said Mr Stokes’ admission of guilt was nothing more than a “mealy mouthed plea with the benefit of weasel words”.

The judge added, “He searched out an individual in respect of an event a year earlier and threatened him with burning out his house”.

Mr Stokes was then told he would be given one week to come up with €2,000 in compensation.

“If I don’t have it I go to jail I know what you are saying,” Mr Stokes conceded. The judge intimated at adjourning the case for 12 months to ensure Mr McKeon was not the victim of any further harassment.

“You won’t be going visiting him for a while let me tell you once I am finished with you,” Judge Hughes told Mr Stokes.

A ten week sentence handed down at last week’s District Court sitting is now the subject of an appeal.

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