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24 Jan 2022

Man who ran on train tracks to escape capture by Longford gardaí avoids prison

Man who ran on train tracks to escape capture by Longford gardaí avoids prison

A man who delayed an early morning train to Dublin by 25 minutes last June has avoided jail after an appearance at Longford District court last week.

Joe McDonagh (36), of no fixed address, was charged with criminal damage and public order at Longford Train Station. The criminal damage charge was struck out at last week’s court sitting.

On June 10, 2020, gardaí received reports of a male causing a disturbance at the train station at 5.30am. When they arrived at the scene, Gardaí spoke to the security guard.

“A male was observed running down the tracks,” explained Sgt Mark Mahon for the state.

“Gardaí gave chase and then went off towards Ardnacassa. Gardaí couldn’t catch him and returned to the station.

Sgt Mahon explained that the security guard told gardaí that Mr McDonagh was drunk and abusive towards him, kicked the train door and caused a delay of 25 minutes to commuters.

“A delay of 25 minutes is a serious matter. Why would you get a 5.30am train if you didn’t need to? There were probably people with flights, people with appointments on that train, and this man was drunk and delaying them,” said an unimpressed Judge Seamus Hughes.

Sgt Mahon explained that Mr McDonagh had 132 previous convictions, including public intoxication in Dublin on December 9, 2020, for which he was fined €100.

On October 16, 2020, a section 6 public order charge was taken into consideration but he was sentenced to four months in prison for trespassing.

In Bray on July 13, 2020, he was convicted of entering a building and on June 19, 2020, in Athy, he was convicted of four thefts.

Sgt Mahon also told Judge Hughes that Mr McDonagh is “well known to the court” in Longford.

“And here he is today hiding his face from me,” said Judge Hughes, noting that Mr McDonagh was wearing his face mask.

“There’s a virus out there, Judge, and I’ve come from Dublin, with a 5km restriction. I shouldn’t have come,” Mr McDonagh interjected, before insisting that he was not drunk that morning at Longford Train Station.

“They couldn’t locate me. How does he (Sgt Mahon) know that I was drunk if I wasn’t located?” he asked, gesturing towards the prosecuting sergeant.

Sgt Mahon explained that the security guard reported that Mr McDonagh was drunk.

Solicitor for the defence John Quinn explained that his client is staying in Dublin with his mother and is “trying to go straight”, before asking the judge if he would consider a suspended sentence.

“Why was he drunk at 5.30am, acting the way he was acting, trying to get on the train? Was he asked for a ticket?” Judge Hughes asked.

“He (security guard) just said get off the train or we’ll call the guards and told me I’m barred. I had a ticket,” Mr McDonagh explained.

“Why did you kick the train door?” asked Judge Hughes.

“I can’t remember,” Mr McDonagh admitted.

“Why did you run away?” asked Judge Hughes.

“Because I didn’t want to wait for the guards and end up in a cell,” said Mr McDonagh.

“Did you want to run to Dublin?” Judge Hughes quipped.

“I didn’t get to Dublin. I had a return ticket but if I get on that train or any of the busses, they call the guards,” said Mr McDonagh.

When Judge Hughes asked him why he was barred, Mr McDonagh said that he had “caused trouble years ago” and was “haunted by it”.

“They don’t like me. They don’t want me on it. I’m blacklisted,” he told Judge Hughes, getting more aggravated.

Sgt Mahon, addressing the court, remarked that “he must have some serious credentials to get blacklisted by every travel company in the country”.

“I take it very seriously that you delayed hundreds of people. I’m sure there were at least one or two who had serious reasons to be on that train,” said Judge Hughes.

“And you, ya blaggard ya, disrupted their lives and you come in here and abuse the court.”

“I haven’t abused youand you’re talking to me like I’m a f*cking low life,” Mr McDonagh shouted.

“I don’t want to go to prison. I’m trying to stay out of jail. Do you think I like coming to court? I’m sick of going in and out of jail.”

“Listen,” said Judge Hughes, “the reason I’m talking to you like this is to impress upon you that you can’t act like that. Would you rather I said nothing except ‘right, six months in prison’? I’d rather lecture you, like a father lecturing a child... not that I see you as a child,” he hastened to add.

“Well I’ve seen you more than I’ve seen my own father,”Mr McDonagh joked.

“I’ll give you a suspended sentence because I don’t want to see you again,” said Judge Hughes.

“I don’t want to see you either,” said Mr McDonagh.

Judge Hughes handed down a three-month sentence but suspended it for three years, noting that “we won’t see each other for at least three years”.

“Well, when the pubs open we might have one,” joked Mr McDonagh.

“If you were in the pub, I’d avoid it,” Judge Hughes remarked with amusement.

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