28 Jun 2022

Judge gives Longford man final opportunity to kick alcohol addiction

Longford Courthouse.

A man who violently assaulted his former partner by choking her until Gardaí arrived and intervened has been given one more chance to kick his alcohol addiction

A man who violently assaulted his former partner by choking her until Gardaí arrived and intervened has been given one more chance to kick his alcohol addiction.

In October 2021, Brendan Kelleher of Drumlish Hill, Drumlish, Co Longford, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison with the final year and nine months suspended.

A bail application was granted in January to allow Mr Kelleher to attend residential treatment at Cuain Mhuire in Athenry. He completed 11 weeks of treatment but, with just four days left in the facility, he was asked to leave following a public order incident.

Mr Kelleher appeared before Longford Circuit Court on May 17, where Sgt Aisling Flynn gave evidence that he was intoxicated in court and Judge Johnson, noting a “flagrant breach” in conditions, remanded him in custody to May 26.

On hearing that the accused had returned home after being asked to leave Cuain Mhuire in April, Judge Johnson expressed his dissatisfaction at the “ignoring” of suspended sentences and bail conditions at treatment centres.

“He was supposed to do nine months in prison,” said Judge Johnson.

“We’re here imposing sentences and we are constitutionally appointed to do that and then somebody makes a decision like that.

“The situation was quite clear. He was to serve nine months before he was to be let out and he was to go directly into residential treatment upon his release.”

Detective Garda Damien McGovern gave evidence in court that Mr Kelleher did not come to Garda attention after leaving the facility until May 12 when he was arrested for producing a sledge hammer during an argument in Longford town.

“At 3pm I was walking up town and heard arguing ahead of me,” said Detective Gda McGovern.

“I saw a male coming towards another male with a sledge and I stood between them. Mr Kelleher said the other male had been banging on the side of his van but that there was more to it.

“I asked him if he wanted to tell me more so we could deal with it and he said ‘you’re the investigator, you find out’.”

The court heard that, following his release from Cuain Mhuire on April 22, Mr Kelleher returned directly home to his parents’ house in Drumlish where he helped his father with the farm until he was arrested by Detective Gda McGovern on May 12.

“So he was three weeks at large. The terms of his bail were that he returns to prison and he didn’t. He just left there and that was it. I need to start being more strict with terms for suspended sentences,” said Judge Johnson.

“It’s outrageous that he was given the opportunity to go and rehabilitate himself and then he’s kicked out and nobody tells the Gardaí he’s out at large.

“I’m going to have to be stricter on these terms. When treatment centres aren’t informing Gardaí when these people leave, it’s just not good enough. The order was very clear that he is to be released on bail to complete residential treatment and to return to prison on completion.

“A copy of that order was given to Cuain Mhuire and anybody who needed to know about it should have known. It is a huge concern to me that a court order was completely ignored. It’s outrageous.”

Defence barrister Niall Flynn explained to the court that, in the three weeks prior to his arrest, he hadn’t been involved in any crime.

“That’s nice to know,” said an outraged Judge Johnson, “it was very good of him to stay out of trouble when he wasn’t supposed to be out at all. He was arrested on May 12. Where was he until May 17 when he was so intoxicated you couldn’t take instruction?”

Detective Gda McGovern informed the court that Mr Kelleher was at home in Drumlish on those days.

“He should have been brought back to prison as soon as he was apprehended by you,” said Judge Johnson.

Taking to the witness box, Mr Kelleher explained to the court that he had attended Cuain Mhuire for treatment a total of eight times but it wasn’t working for him.

He asked Judge Johnson for “one more chance” to attend a clinic in Kilkenny where he would have an implant inserted which would make him physically ill if he took a drink.

He explained that, on the day he was asked to leave the treatment facility, he had been brought to Galway city for laser eye treatment. When he left the clinic, there was nobody there to collect him and so he went and got himself a drink.

He also informed the court that he had been attending AA meetings in Longford and Mullingar since his release from treatment, and that he was planning to do a green cert with Teagasc so he could take over the family farm after his father had surgery on his back.

“I beg and plead that if I only got a couple of weeks, I’d get the implant. If I go back to prison, my father will have to surrender the farm and there’ll be nothing for me when I get out,” he said.

“Prison isn’t good for me. There’s more drink and drugs in prison than I could get on the streets. I’m pleading and begging you not to send me back to prison. Any trouble I’ve been in has been totally down to alcohol.”

Judge Johnson, expressing his disappointment, said he is tired of giving Mr Kelleher chances.

“I’m at the end of my tether with you. I’ve given you every opportunity. I’ve bent over backwards to facilitate you and you threw it in my face,” he said. “What’s the point in me giving suspended sentences if people ignore the terms?”

“If you give me one more opportunity you won’t see me again,” said Mr Kelleher.

“If you were sitting where I’m sitting, after giving someone every opportunity, what would you expect me to do?” asked Judge Johnson.

Mr Flynn, on behalf of the defence, asked that Judge Johnson refrain from activating the suspended sentence and give Mr Kelleher “one further opportunity to get the implant, get his green cert and take over the family farm”.

“I’m very surprised he hasn’t been advised about this implant before if he’s been through Cuain Mhuire eight times,” said Judge Johnson.

“I have zero confidence that Mr Kelleher will remain sober. He just cannot control himself. I have concerns that even when he was sober, he resorted to taking out a sledge hammer.

“I don’t make the decision I make now lightly. I won’t finalise today but I’m remanding him in custody to July 25 with liberty to reenter. He can be released for insertion of that implant but return to custody for three or four weeks after that to see how he gets on.

“I am leaving light at the end of the tunnel. He doesn’t deserve it. But I am aware alcoholism is a disease.”Longf

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