Three men have been jailed for section 3 assault and a fourth is to be assessed for community service following last week’s sitting of Longford Circuit Court.
Ryan Doyle, Ferefad, Longford, Richard Doyle and Richie Doyle, both of 17 Ardnacassa Avenue, Ballinalee Road, Longford, and Martin Doyle, 67 Grian Ard, Longford, were all convicted by Judge Keenan Johnson on Thursday last week.
All four had pleaded guilty to charges of assault causing harm to William McDonnell and his wife Patricia on July 10, 2019, when the injured parties were visiting relatives in Ardnacassa, Longford.
“There is bad blood between the McDonnell family and the Doyle family. Regrettably the dispute between the families is part of a pattern of feuding within the Traveller community, which is extremely prevalent in Longford,” said Judge Johnson at the sentencing.
“This persistent feuding has been a huge drain on Garda resources and an affront to the law-abiding citizens of Longford. The courts are obligated to send out a clear message that this type of offending will not be tolerated and that those who engage in it can expect significant sanction.”
The court had previously heard that, on July 10, 2019, William and Patricia McDonnell were walking to a relative’s house and, on the way back, Patricia threw something at the Doyle household.
“As a consequence, William McDonnell and Patricia McDonnell were viciously attacked by the four accused,” said Judge Johnson, noting that the men had armed themselves with walking sticks, a slash hook and a three-pronged pitchfork.
“The court had the benefit of video footage of the assault. It is fair to say that the assault was extremely vicious and involved persistent beating of William McDonnell while he was on the ground. In particular, Ryan Doyle used the pitchfork in an extremely aggressive fashion, causing serious injury to Mr McDonnell’s legs.
“Likewise, Richie Doyle used the slash hook in a very aggressive and violent fashion, persistently hitting the victim all over his body. Martin Doyle also engaged in a serious assault of the victim while armed with a walking stick.
“Patricia McDonnell was also attacked but fortunately her injuries were not as serious as those of her husband. Nevertheless, she sustained a significant injury to her leg.”
Two victim impact statements were read out in court with Mr McDonnell stating that he is left with scars on his leg and with “pain on and off as a result of ulcers”. He indicated that he wanted the whole matter dealt with and acknowledged that he could have been killed during the assault.
Mrs McDonnell stated that she is still suffering rib pain as a result and is left with a scar on her shin as a result from the blow of the slash hook. She also indicated that she is fearful there may be a re-occurrence and that her relationship with her husband has been “badly damaged” and she is suffering from nightmares.
“She found it very difficult to watch her husband in such pain and she states that she will never get over the incident. She says that she is now receiving help for depression,” Judge Johnson noted.
Turning to sentencing, Judge Johnson listed a number of aggravating factors, including the fact the four accused armed themselves and used those weapons to engage in “such a vicious and sustained attack, particularly on William McDonnell”.
“The fact that such an assault could take place in daylight hours in the presence of children in a residential estate is a further aggravating factor,” said Judge Johnson, “anyone who witnessed the incident couldn’t but be traumatised by it.
“The savagery and violence involved was both sickening and very frightening. It is clear that the victims were significantly injured as a consequence of the assaults,” he added, noting that both victims had to be hospitalised for their injuries.
The fact that all four accused have previous convictions was also an aggravating factor, while mitigating factors included the fact that each of the accused proffered an early plea of guilt in the matters, saving the state the time, cost and expense that a criminal trial would have entailed.
The fact that each of the accused expressed remorse for their behaviour was also noted in mitigation, as was the fact that each had brought the sum of €2,500 by way of compensation to the victims.
Each of the accused have also engaged in mediation and abided by a mediated agreement to avoid contact with each other to avoid engagement in further fighting.
Turning to sentencing, Judge Johnson noted that Richie Doyle armed himself with a slash hook, was “the leader of this assault” and therefore the most culpable, followed by Ryan Doyle, who armed himself with a pitchfork.
The next culpable was Martin Doyle, who armed himself with a walking stick. Richard Doyle was the least culpable of the four.
Richie Doyle attracted a headline sentence of four years and six months, which after mitigation, was reduced to three years with the final two years suspended for a period of ten years.
Ryan Doyle also attracted a headline sentence of four years, which was reduced to two years and six months, with the final 21 months suspended for ten years.
Before mitigation, Martin Doyle attracted a headline sentence of of three years and six months, which was reduced to two years with the final 18 months suspended for ten years.
In relation to Richard Doyle, Judge Johnson marked the headline sentence at two years and six months and adjourned the finalisation of sentencing to October so that he can be assessed as to his suitability for community service.
If he is deemed to be suitable, Judge Johnson will impose a sentence of 240 hours in lieu of prison.
“Each of the accused should bear in mind that if they commit any feud-related offence during the period of the suspended sentence, they are likely to have the entirety of the suspended sentence activated,” said Judge Johnson.
“The message has to go out loud and clear that the court will not tolerate and further feud-related activity in Longford and anyone engaged in such activity can expect a prison sentence.”
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