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22/10/2021

Judge releases Ballymahon man who threatened to kill garda’s wife and children

Longford Courthouse.

A man who threatened the lives and safety of a garda, his wife and his kids has been released on bail following the successful appeal of a District Court prison sentence

A man who threatened the lives and safety of a garda, his wife and his kids has been released on bail following the successful appeal of a District Court prison sentence which saw him and a co-accused put away for 14 months.

Sean Taaffe, 24 St Matthews Park, Ballymahon, appeared at Longford Circuit Court last week to appeal the severity of the sentence handed down by Judge Seamus Hughes earlier this year.

In relaying the evidence, State Solicitor Mark Connellan told Judge Keenan Johnson that on May 10, 2021, Gardaí received reports of a criminal damage incident outside a house in Ballymahon where a car wing mirror was kicked off.

Upon arrival, Gda Keith O’Brien encountered Mr Taaffe’s co-accused, David O’Leary of 2 St Matthews Park, Ballymahon, who withdrew his own District Court appeal last week, and moved to arrest him. Mr Taaffe, the court heard, emerged from the bushes shouting “get your hands off him”.

Both men became highly abusive towards Gda O’Brien who radioed for assistance.

The court heard that Mr Taaffe continued to abuse the garda, telling him that he had a glass bottle behind his back that he would smash across his face and stab him with.

He told Gda O’Brien that he knew he’d be working on his own one night and that he’d “get” him, while also threatening to burn his car outside the garda station.

The severity of the abuse continued with the pair stating they knew where Gda O’Brien lived and would rape and kill his wife and kids.

When Gda Emma Kiernan arrived to offer assistance, both men continued to be abusive to the point that Gda O’Brien started to record the encounter, taking three short videos which he had in court as evidence.

He proceeded to play one of the recordings for Judge Keenan Johnson in court. On it, one of the accused can be heard shouting “she’s next, you’re next and your whole family is next, do you understand that?”

While this footage was being played in the court room, Mr Taaffe held his head in his hands.

Evidence was also heard of a complaint from a male cyclist who alleged he had been assaulted by both men despite attempting to fight back while being kicked and punched by the pair.

Judge Seamus Hughes in the District Court sentenced Mr Taaffe to six months in prison for threats to kill, four months for assault and four months for criminal damage.

Barrister for Mr Taaffe, Nicola Delaney, in mitigation told the court that Mr Taaffe had taken “a significant amount of alcohol and drugs” and noted that her client was deeply ashamed of his actions.

“He has three children, aged eight, six and eight months and they moved to Manchester with their mother,” she explained.

“He missed his youngest child’s christening because he was in custody. The children spent three weeks in Ireland so they could see their father but he was in custody.”

When called to give his own evidence, Mr Taaffe said he has “no recollection” of that night and told the court he’d consumed a litre bottle of whiskey and seven or eight tablets.

“I just remember waking up the next day and not knowing why I was there,” he said.

Judge Keenan Johnson said Mr Taaffe’s behaviour that day was “absolutely outrageous” and “scandalous”.

“If you saw someone abuse your brother and make threats to his family, you’d expect the judge to put that person in jail,” he said.

“The guards have a tough enough time doing what they do without this kind of behaviour. You behaved like a thug. And then, while Gda O’Brien was going to perform his duty, not only was he threatened but, unforgivably, his wife and children were threatened.”

Despite this, Judge Johnson said he would release Mr Taaffe on bail with strict terms to allow a probation report to be prepared.

He is to engage with probation services, remain drug and alcohol free and abide by a 10pm to 7am curfew.

“You are also to go back working and start accumulating funds as recompense. I’ll expect €1,500 in court on January 12 and that's just a start. I also want written apologies furnished within the next fortnight,” he said.

“If you step out of line between now and then, it’s to be brought before me no matter where I’m sitting and if it’s brought before me, I’ll increase your sentence. You’re on a very short reign now.”

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