A Longford man has been sentenced to 52 months in prison with the final eight months suspended after a jury found him guilty of section 4 assault causing serious harm.
Denis Hannifin, Curry, Athlone Road, Longford, was on trial in Longford Circuit Court earlier this year and was found guilty of assault, affray, production of a knife, possession of a knife and recklessly or intentionally causing serious harm to Denis McGinley in December 2018.
He was remanded in custody until Monday when he reappeared before Judge Francis Comerford for sentencing.
During his trial, the court heard that, on December 7, 2018, Mr Hannifin was Christmas shopping in Longford Shopping Centre with his wife when there was an altercation with Mr McGinley.
CCTV footage played in court over the course of the three day trial showed both men crossing paths at the entrance to the shopping centre and Mr McGinley swinging punches at Mr Hannifin, who took what a garda witness described as “a shiny implement” believed to be a knife from his pocket.
The altercation ended up inside Lloyd’s Pharmacy where Mr McGinley said he was “begging him to stop” because “I was bleeding to death”. CCTV footage shows a large amount of blood on the floor of the pharmacy.
Mr Tallat Ejaz, a surgeon at Mullingar Regional Hospital, told the court that he examined Mr McGinley on December 7, 2018, when he arrived at A&E with “multiple stab wounds”.
He told the court that, while Mr McGinley’s injuries were not fatal, they could have resulted in death if he had not received immediate medical attention.
Mr Hannifin’s defence barrister, Barry White, put forward a lengthy case for self-defence on the part of Mr Hannifin, stressing that his client had been attacked by Mr McGinley and was simply protecting himself.
He brought forward evidence of a phone call between Mr McGinley and his father, which he said proved there was intent to “knock sparks” out of Mr Hannifin.
“Make sure he doesn’t have a knife because he probably will,” were words spoken by a man, presumed by the defence to be Mr McGinley’s father.
“He probably will but I’ll knock sparks out of him before he gets a chance to use it,” said the other man, presumed to be Mr McGinley.
In an earlier court sitting, Mr McGinley pleaded guilty to his part in the affray and was sentenced.
A victim impact statement written by Mr McGinley and read by Garda John Fitzmaurice detailed how the injured party feels his life “will never be the same again”.
“I genuinely thought I was going to die and that fear has never left me since,” he said.
He explained how the incident left him with “life-changing injuries” and how he will “no longer take (his) abilities for granted”.
He also detailed how, before this incident, he worked in Canada, and was hoping to renew his work visa to return but, due to the injuries he sustained as a result of this altercation, he would no longer be able to do that.
“My dream of living in Canada and doing the work I love was taken from me by Denis Hannifin,” he said.
He also explained how he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to his pyschologist and that his family were also badly affected with his mother often crying and his younger sister feeling at fault for what happened to him, as he was entering the shopping centre because she had been afraid to walk out alone after seeing Mr Hannifin.
“The past three and a half years have been complete hell,” he added, stating that he had to take to the stand on two occasions during the trial and was “scorned” by people for giving evidence.
In delivering sentence on Monday afternoon, Judge Comerford acknowledged that Mr McGinley’s injuries “could have resulted in death” and did result in “disfigurement” for Mr McGinley who has scarring as a result.
He also made reference to the mention of an incident which occurred a number of weeks prior to this altercation, which may have led to it.
“But no matter what happened before, it doesn’t justify either person’s conduct,” he said.
However, he also noted that the initial aggressor was Mr McGinley who he said “carried out an attack with the intent of showing up Mr Hannifin, whether by injuring him or humiliating him”.
“I have a lot of sympathy for men in the Travelling Community who go out and commit these offences,” said Judge Comerford.
“It’s sad that within some members of the community, the families teach them to go out and get involved in these feuds. Mr McGinley’s father counselled him to do this. So rather than doing something that he thought was wrong, he was doing something that his father encouraged him to do on behalf of his family.
“He knew it was dangerous to do this because his father told him Mr Hannifin would probably have a knife but his response was that he would attack so quickly and ‘knock sparks’ out of him so that he wouldn’t be able to defend himself.”
Judge Comerford was satisfied that Mr Hannifin was out doing his Christmas shopping.
“It’s clear to me that all of the aggression came from Mr McGinley but Mr Hannifin was fast. He dropped the package he was carrying and drew his knife at an early stage,” he said.
“There was a risk of death, however the surgeon made it clear that the risk was dealt with. Mr McGinley was in circumstances where he was always going to get medical attention because of where he was.
“There’s a high degree of culpability with Mr Hannifin. He was on some level aware there was a dispute and he was prepared for violence. It seems clear the purpose of carrying a knife was for if he was involved in an altercation and there was a readiness to be involved.
“However, this was not a premeditated attack by Mr Hannifin. He didn’t make any aggressive move towards Mr McGinley. Mr McGinley came at him so fast, ready to ‘knock sparks out of him’ before he could get to his knife.
“Mr Hannifin was entitled to defend himself but the way he defended himself was grossly excessive and it’s easy to see why the jury convicted him.”
For the section 4 assault causing serious harm charge, Mr Hannifin was sentenced to 52 months in prison with the final eight months suspended.
Concurrent sentences of 30 months and 25 months were also handed down respectively for the production and use of a knife and his involvement in the affray.
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