Manorhamilton District Court was heard in The Glens Centre.
“Let me make it quite clear, when you are in this jurisdiction you will respect the law and the Guards,” said Judge Kevin P Kilrane prior to imposing a conviction against Sean Hegarty in relation to a charge of threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour in Kinlough in June of this year when he appeared before Manorhamilton District Court.
Giving evidence in the case against the defendant at last week's sitting, Frank McGovern said on June 2, 2018 he was in his sitting room at Aughamore, Kinlough when his wife arrived home saying there was someone outside taking photos of their house.
Mr McGovern said he went outside to the gateway and noticed a gentleman with a mobile phone or a camera. When he asked if he could help the man, the reply he received was ‘mind your own business’.
Mr McGovern’s wife came out of the house a short time later, saying she was going to phone the Gardaí. Mr McGovern told the Court the defendant said ‘you know who I am’, to which he replied, ‘I don’t’.
Continuing his evidence Mr McGovern said his wife attempted to phone the Gardaí with Mr Hegarty informing them that would not be a good idea.
“He said where he comes from they deal with things without the use of guards.”
Mr Hegarty was said to have then leaned towards a wall and picked up a hammer.
“He came within three or four yards implying we should settle things one to one.”
Mr McGovern added, “Rosemary (his wife) said the Guards were on the way,” with Mr Hegarty allegedly then waving the hammer saying that was a bad idea and to go 'back across the water'.
Under cross-examination from Insp Paul Kilcoyne, Mr McGovern said, “Rosemary said he looked like he had taken drink. I personally hadn’t noticed that.”
Under cross-examination from defending solicitor Gerry McGovern, Frank McGovern said his relationship with his neighbours was “Not particularly good.”
He agreed that he had called the Gardaí on a number of occasions.
When asked where the neighbour who had lived next door to them, Yvonne James, was, the witness said she had moved out.
Mr McGovern (solicitor) said, “She moved out because she couldn’t put up with living next door to neighbours from hell.”
Frank McGovern’s wife, Rosemary, gave evidence saying when she returned home on the evening in question she observed a gentleman outside their property who appeared to be taking pictures.
Ms McGovern said she joined her husband outside while he was in conversation with the defendant and was told, ‘If you phone the Guards, that will be the biggest mistake of your life.”
When asked to detail the conversation that took place outside she said, “I wasn’t really listening. I was more concerned about getting my husband to take a step back.”
Under cross-examination from Insp Kilcoyne she added, “He was telling my husband to go back to where he came from. He was talking to us with a Northern Irish accent - how dare he.”
Under cross-examination from Gerry McGovern (defending), the witness said, “This man threatened me with a hammer. I don’t know who he is, where he is from or what he is capable of.”
Mr McGovern (solicitor) said there was no attempt to threaten the McGovern family saying, “If someone has a hammer in their hand it looks threatening. You came out of your house and walked towards him.”
Gda Bernard Kenny gave evidence saying he received a phone call to Kinlough Garda Station at approximately 7pm on the date in question and spoke to Mr and Mrs McGovern and on June 24 he took possession of cctv belonging to the McGoverns.
Gda Kenny also attended the property of Yvonne James and spoke to the defendant, Sean Hegarty, who has an address at 2 Casement View, Larne, Co Antrim.
The defendant was invited to make a statement but wanted to consult with his solicitor before doing so. The Court heard he did not make a statement.
Mr Hegarty told Gda Kenny he was thinking of erecting a sign and he showed Gda Kenny his camera which contained seven photos of the McGovern property, the wall and the roadway.
Gda Kenny added he could smell alcohol from the defendant but noted, “He was very much able to hold down a conversation.”
Insp Kilcoyne added that he had viewed cctv footage taken from the McGovern property saying, “I think the movement of the defendant, carrying the hammer in a manner that wouldn't be usual, I would construe that as threatening in the very least.”
Insp Kilcoyne added that the defendant picked up the hammer from the adjacent wall during the conversation with the McGoverns.
The defendant, Mr Hegarty, gave evidence saying he had been visiting the property next door to the McGoverns since the previous September and had stayed there for several weeks at a time.
Explaining his actions he said, “I was going to erect a sign about parking because it’s on a bend. It’s dangerous.”
He added that he took measurements and photographs of the bend adding, “They came out and it all kicked off.”
Mr Hegarty insisted he was not on property belonging to the McGoverns at any stage noting, “The only time I wasn’t on private property (belonging to Ms James) was when I crossed the road to take pictures of the bend.”
When asked if he intended to cause any harm he replied, “Not in the slightest. Like a lot of people sometimes I would talk with my hands.”
Mr Hegarty was then asked if he made threats to injure or harm the McGoverns to which he replied, “No. As far as I was concerned it was handbags at dawn.”
Insp Kilcoyne expressed the belief the conversation between the parties was at the heart of the dispute asking, “What were your comments?”
In reply Mr Hegarty said, “I did say a few things - ‘who the f*** do you think you are'.
“She accused me of drink driving, my father was killed by a drink driver. I got upset by that, as I am now. “I told him I was measuring the wall.”
When asked again to detail the conversation between the parties Mr Hegarty replied, “I can’t remember word for word.”
Following further questioning Mr Hegarty denied that he was intoxicated or that he had an intoxicant taken at the time.”
When it was put to him that on the cctv footage he appears to stumble on a few occasions, Mr Hegarty replied that was due to the uneven ground he was walking on.
Having heard the evidence Judge Kevin P Kilrane said, “This is somewhat of a powderkeg, years of difficulties.”
He noted there had been “A lot of ill-will between the parties.”
Judge Kilrane continued, “On the occasion in question the defendant did have alcohol taken and was going to erect a sign. Not necessarily an offensive sign but in some way connected to protecting property. I do not think the photos were being taken maliciously.”
Judge Kilrane formed the opinion “frustration and annoyance flared up,” with Mr Hegarty having “wrongly come to the conclusion he was being accused of drink driving.
“Something cracked in his mind - they are his own words.”
Judge Kilrane added, “I don’t think he was gone to the point where he was ever going to use the hammer,” although he added, “It wouldn’t have taken a lot longer before Mr Hegarty would have lost control completely.
“He grabbed the hammer, waved the hammer and approached the McGoverns. One doesn’t do that sort of thing and it is frightening.”
Imposing a conviction against the defendant who has no previous convictions in this jurisdiction but has three convictions in Northern Ireland - two for disorderly behaviour and one for assault causing actual bodily harm - Judge Kilrane stated firmly,
“Let me make it quite clear, when you are in this jurisdiction you will respect the law and the Guards.
“You will respect the police force known as An Garda Siochana and no implication there is another way of dealing with matters.”
Imposing a conviction and a €200 fine Judge Kilrane said, “That is the end of this particular dispute.”