Judge Keenan Johnson has branded comments about Longford’s reputation as ‘ironic’ after the man who made those comments appeared before him charged with violent disorder on the county town’s main street.
Christopher Stokes, previously of 33 Springlawn, Longford, but now residing in Kildare, told Judge Johnson that he wouldn’t rear his child in Longford because of all the feuding that is going on in the town.
Mr Stokes was charged with violent disorder, which took place on July 12, 2020 at approximately 6.2opm.
The court heard how Mr Stokes and his father were in their car in the town when they received a call from his sister, stating that they were being chased by another family in the town.
Mr Stokes and his father drove to the scene and CCTV footage from the town showed him getting his own family members away from the row and into his car before driving away.
However, the court heard, his sister shouted at him that their father was being attacked and so Mr Stokes parked his car and ran back with a shovel in his hand to help his father.
“I let out a few roars at them and they scattered and I followed them,” Mr Stokes told the court last week.
“It was a spur of the moment thing. I’m very ashamed of my actions. It should never have occurred in public.”
He also told the court that, now he is married, with his wife expecting their first child, he is living in Kildare and has “no intention of coming back to Longford”.
“I don’t think Longford is a place to bring up a small child,” he said.
Judge Johnson said that comment was “ironic” considering Mr Stokes “participated in the appalling incident” that contributed to the reputation Longford has undeservedly received in recent years.
“The problem of feuding in Longford has come before this court on far too many occasions for my liking,” said Judge Johnson.
“I have huge sympathy for the people and businesses impacted by it. Many people will say the solution is to jail everyone involved and I hear a lot of criticism that suspended sentences are not good enough.
“But that is a very ill-informed opinion because suspended sentences carry a number of obligations.
“I thought it was extraordinary that Mr Stokes would say he wouldn’t come back to Longford with a child because of its reputation,” Judge Johnson continued.
“But he has contributed to that reputation. Longford has always had a tradition of being a very good business town and I have sympathy for the people of Longford tarred with this reputation by a few thugs who think they can do what they want.”
In this particular incident, Judge Johnson said a suspended sentence is appropriate and sentenced Mr Stokes to 12 months in prison, suspending it for five years - a longer period than is customary - on the condition that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
He has also been ordered to pay €1,250 to St Christopher’s.
“I’m suspending the sentence for five years because public interest dictates this type of behaviour has to stop and the way to stop it is to have suspended sentences hanging over them.”
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