02 Dec 2021

Edgeworthstown woman fined over hatchet possession

Longford Courthouse.

A mother of two who was found in the possession of a hatchet has been fined €300 by District Court Judge John Brennan.

A mother of two who was found in the possession of a hatchet has been fined €300 by District Court Judge John Brennan.

Jayne Ward, Lisnanagh, Edgeworthstown was found guilty at a sitting of Longford District Court last Tuesday after the car in which she was a front seat passenger was stopped and searched by gardaí at Cloonahussey, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford on November 2, 2019

Detective Garda Orla Geraghty told a court four days beforehand of how she and colleague Detective Garda Sean Galvin were on patrol on the night of November 2, 2019.

At around 7:30pm, she said she spotted two vehicles parked just off the main N4 between Longford and Edgeworthstown beside the former ballroom, The Fountain Blue.

Detective Geraghty said one of those was a BMW car which contained Jayne Ward, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.

She said as she spoke with Ms Ward, a blue and white hatchet could be seen in the front footwell beside the accused woman’s feet.

Detective Geraghty said Ms Ward offered up no reasonable explanation, insisting she bought it for chopping wood.

Ms Ward was cautioned, the car was searched and Section 16 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act and ultimately seized.

Detective Geraghty also added there were two small children sitting in the rear of the car.

She went on to reveal how the Stokes family had, at the time, been involved in an ongoing feud with a rivalling family from the Longford area.

Under cross examination from defence solicitor Bríd Mimnagh at a hearing four days previously, Detective Geraghty disagreed with the Longford solicitor’s assertion that her client had never been arrested or questioned in connection to allegations her family were involved in a feud.

“She has no convictions,” added Ms Mimnagh, again prompting Det Garda Geraghty to disagree as she outlined how Ms Ward had five previous transgressions to her name, one of which was for violent disorder in 2018.

Ms Mimnagh contended however, the matter was heard at Circuit Court level and consequently struck out.

The court also heard direct evidence from Detective Garda Sean Galvin.

Like Detective Garda Geraghty, he said he observed Ms Ward sitting in the front passenger seat of the car and said it was his belief the second car was in the throws of handing over a delivery from a takeaway in Longford town.

He said soon after gardaí arrived on the scene, other members of the Stokes family, including her husband Kevin Stokes Jnr who pulled up in another car where events took a more hostile turn.

He rejected claims made by Ms Mimnagh of how Mr Stokes could not have been in a position to either use or take ownership of the said hatchet at the time after he had recently been the victim of a serious assault in a car park at the rear of Longford Courthouse.

“Other members of the Stokes family arrived at the scene with Kevin Stokes Jnr,” said Detective Garda Galvin.

“He was confrontational enough and not in any way incapacitated at the time.”

Ms Ward took to the stand to reveal how she had bought the hatchet for less than €10 from Jimmy’s Superstore in Athlone earlier that day.

“I went to do shopping in Athlone, I went home and put away my groceries,” she said.

“I went down to collect my food and I genuinely forgot to take the hatchet out (of the car).

“On the day, it just slipped my mind.”

In response to questioning about how the hatchet appeared to have been used previously from Inspector Dave Jordan, Ms Ward denied those claims.

As the hatchet was handed into Judge Brennan, Inspector Jordan said: “It’s not a new hatchet, it’s not one that’s been bought off a shelf.”

Judge Brennan, in delivering his verdict, said it “seemed odd” as to how the hatchet had been found in the footwell of the car, adding Ms Ward’s evidence to the court was simply not credible.

“There is also no receipt (presented in court) here today,” he said.

“One of the first things you would do to rebutt State’s case would be to go to Jimmy’s and get a receipt.”

Judge Brennan also noted how it was his belief, in taking closer inspection of the hatchet, that it had been used previously.

Ms Ward was remanded on bail until last Tuesday's weekly sitting in order for previous convictions to be outlined to the court.

Fiona Baxter, who defended Ms Ward last week, said her client was acceptive that she had five previous transgressions to her name, one of which included a violent disorder conviction.

That stemmed from an incident in 2016, added Ms Baxter which Ms Ward had “completely forgotten about”.

The reason, she said MsWard had overlooked the incident was due to the fact Judge Seamus Hughes at the time had opted to bind all parties to the peace for 12 months and ultimately believed no conviction was recorded as a result.

She said Ms Ward was a mother of two young children, both of whom had encountered health difficulties.

Judge Brennan said despite Ms Ward's mitigating circumstances, he had little option but to record a conviction.

“It was a serious incident,” he said,” adding Ms Ward was fully entitled to defend the case.“It is a serious matter in the background of an ongoing feud.”

Judge Brennan added that while he accepted Ms Ward's insistence she had no involvement in any ongoing dispute, the hatchet retrieved by gardaí was a “very substantial” item to be found.

He said taking all of those matters into account, the most appropriate way to dispose of the case was by way of monetary fine.

He fined Ms Ward €300, giving her four months to pay.

Judge Brennan also ordered for the hatchet to be destroyed.

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