A Mohill man who punched the then Chairman of Mohill GAA Club and knocked him unconscious was convicted and sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for a period of two years.
Stephen Flynn, 14 Knocklongford, Mohill pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to Padraig McLoughlin on July 21, 2018 at Spirit Bar, Mohill, and to threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour on May 31, 2018 at Gordon's Cosy Corner, Mohill.
Mr McLoughlin told a special sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon District Court last Wednesday that the first incident related to an incident in Gordon's Cosy Corner where he and others were meeting to discuss a club appeal to Connacht Council when Mr Flynn approached him, pulled the table out and raised his fist to him.
The second incident related to Spirit Bar when Mr McLoughlin, who was 57 at the time of the incident, was sitting at the bar with friends following a football match when Mr Flynn entered. Mr Flynn came over and said to Mr McLoughlin's friends, “Don't believe a word that c*** says.”
He then lashed out and hit Mr McLoughlin a box under the chin and he fell back hitting his head off a stool and the floor.
He was taken by ambulance to Sligo hospital where he regained consciousness and had to have a CT scan. He said he couldn't believe what was after happening to him.
He was later released into the care of his wife and daughter who is a nurse and then the nightmare started for him. He is a farmer and machine operator and said he couldn't work for six weeks after. He had dizzy spells and suffered from vertigo when he lay down. Mr McLoughlin said he actually stood in a field one day crying because he couldn't carry out the work he normally would.
Cross examined by Mr Flynn, who was representing himself, Mr McLoughlin said he did not invite Mr Flynn to the meeting in Gordon's and would not have been comfortable to have him there. He said Mr Flynn took it upon himself to go and to come to the table where they were sitting.
Mr Flynn put it to him that the second incident occurred more or less as Mr McLoughlin stated but said Mr McLoughlin had raised his right hand to him and he had struck him as “a defensive mechanism.”
Mr McLoughlin replied that account was “unbelievable” and when it was put to him a second time, he again replied “unbelievable.”
Claire McLoughlin, wife of the injured party, said she had been in Spirit Bar that night having attended the match and was sitting with her friends adjacent to her husband who was sitting at the counter.
She said she observed Stephen Flynn coming in and was on alert due to the previous incident with her husband. Within a short space of time there was a commotion and she saw Padraig fall very heavily backwards off the stool. She didn't see the punch but became aware it had happened. She saw his head hit a stool and bounce off the floor in “a massive impact.”
Mrs McLoughlin saw Stephen Flynn standing there and she shouted at him why had he done it and to get out. She said he just stood there impassively as Padraig lay on the floor quite unresponsive.
Mrs McLoughlin said she was very, very distraught and ran outside to call 999 for an ambulance and turned around to find Mr Flynn standing there beside her. She said she felt very threatened.
She told him she was on the phone to the Guards and he strolled nonchalantly down the street.
Her daughter Sinead, a nurse who was also present in the bar that night, put Mr McLoughlin in the recovery position until the emergency services arrived.
Asked by Mr Flynn if she heard her husband say anything as he hit the ground, she said she did not. Mr Flynn contended that Mr McLoughlin said 'call the Guards' after he had hit the ground.
Anella Mulligan was in Spirit Bar that night and gave evidence of sitting down with her back to the bar, hearing the commotion and turning to see Mr McLoughlin lying on the ground.
Sinead McLoughlin, the victim's daughter, said she ran over to her father and realised he was unconscious. She said she was so worried as he had hit the back of his head and in her job as a nurse she has seen the impact that one punch can cause.
She said Stephen Flynn had a blank stare on his face, he was just standing there staring and showed no remorse.
She said she was holding her father's hand and reassuring him. She said she saw Mr Flynn “saunter out of the bar with not a care in the world.”
Mr Flynn said to the court his contention was that Mr McLoughlin was never unconscious, he hit the ground in a controlled fashion and he described Mr McLoughlin as “an accomplished actor” who had played a part with the local Acorn Players where he had to pretend to fall over in one of the sketches.
Ms McLoughlin described that as “the most ridiculous thing.” She said she was over to her father in seconds and he wasn't responsive. She checked his eyes with the torch on her phone and questioned how someone could act unconscious.
Sgt Ronan Mooney later interviewed Mr Flynn about events that night and Mr Flynn had a prepared statement with him in which he said he entered Spirit Bar at 10.50pm and at 11.12pm he approached Padraig McLoughlin and called him a liar, at which point he raised his right hand in Mr Flynn's direction and told him to get back. Mr Flynn said he saw that as a threat to him and he struck Mr McLoughlin with his right fist on the jaw. He said Mr McLoughlin fell onto the ground and said 'call the Guards.' He said he finished his drink and left the premises.
Mr Flynn said that at the first incident in Gordon's he did pull the table out of the way but did not raise his fist. He admitted that he did invite Mr McLoughlin outside.
He told Sgt Mooney that he had previously had a stroke and had lost 40% power in his right arm. He described it as a staged fall by Mr McLoughlin. He also told the sergeant he regretted the time that was taken up by the emergency services on the night.
In court last Wednesday, Mr Flynn said the contents of his statement were true and accurate.
Judge Brian O'Shea, in passing his verdict, said the GAA is a way of life for many people and some people are obsessed with it but problems arise when people can't control their emotions and become upset.
He said when that happens then unsavoury incidents can occur and people ruin it for others and bring disgrace on themselves and their clubs.
Judge O'Shea said he found Mr Flynn guilty of the public order offence in Gordon's Cosy Corner.
In relation to the Section 3 assault charge relating to Spirit Bar, Judge O'Shea said he found the accused had approached Mr McLoughlin and made remarks about him in the presence of friends. Mr Flynn punched him causing him harm and the Judge said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Mr McLoughlin did not raise his hand and that Mr Flynn fabricated that detail.
He also said he rejected the evidence of Mr Flynn that he was defending himself. He said Mr Flynn lied about that to the Gardai and lied to the court about that under oath.
Judge O'Shea also said he accepted Mr McLoughlin's daughter's testimony that her father, by the time she got to him, was unconscious.
Judge O'Shea invited Mr McLoughlin to make a statement from the witness box. Mr McLoughlin said he found it very hard to believe he was back in court to go through all this again when he had already done so last December.
It was explained in court that the case had previously been heard by Judge Greally and adjourned for compensation and a probation report. On that occasion Mr Flynn had pleaded guilty to the two offences and had apologised through his solicitor.
When the case came back before Judge Greally in Donegal on August 5 last, Mr Flynn applied, on an ex parte basis, to vacate his plea and this was granted.
“It's very tough on me to have to be put through this again,” Mr McLoughlin said. “It's very hard for me to understand.
He said he was told by the judge last December that he had got closure and could get on with his life.
Mr McLoughlin said he did get on with things and had put it behind him. He said Stephen Flynn was supposed to come back with €4,100 in compensation. He said he heard nothing more about it until last August when Stephen Flynn was bragging in the pub in Mohill that he got the case overturned and was getting a new hearing.
“I have been put through absolute hell to be put through this a second time,” he said.
Mr McLoughlin said the only reason he was in court and why he was assaulted was because he was chairman of Mohill GAA Club, not for any other reason, and a very successful Chairman at that.
“To think that this man has never made any effort to apologise to me and has dragged me and my family back through this again goes to show he has no remorse whatsoever,” he said.
He added that he has good time for Mr Flynn's sons and his family and had no interest in seeing him go to jail.
“All I expected from the man was a bit of courtesy, a bit of manners and that he would come and apologise for his actions that night,” he said.
“Since that all he has done is gone around Mohill saying the c*** McLoughlin will never see any money from me, he'll never see the €4,000 I was supposed to get,” he added.
Mr McLoughlin said he works hard every day for his living and he never expected any money but all he expected was justice and that nobody would be put through what Mr Flynn has put him and his family through.
He said that he is currently seeing a therapist to try to get over the sleepless nights Mr Flynn has put him through.
He accused Stephen Flynn of coming into court and telling “blatant lies.”
“He came over and struck me and for him to have the cheek to say I lifted my hand. I will argue my point but I will never settle any dispute with my fists,” he said, and described it as an insult for that to be suggested.
“I didn't have a chance to lift any hand. I said what I said and he struck me. He had the cheek to say I was an accomplished actor and I acted that out. I got sick in the ambulance on the way to Sligo,” he stated.
Mr McLoughlin said he lay on a couch for six weeks and didn't work or get a penny from anyone.
“That was all acting? I think he has a bloody cheek to do what he did to me today,” he said.
Mr Flynn then apologised to Mr McLoughlin in court for what he described as “something that shouldn't have happened.” Judge O'Shea noted that an apology wasn't consistent with contesting the case and accusing Mr McLoughlin of acting.
“I apologise for the whole lot and I guarantee there will never be an incident like it, or similar, again,” Mr Flynn said.
The court heard he has no previous convictions. He is aged 60, is separated, with three children and is not working.
Judge O'Shea, in his summation, said he found both offences to be in the upper range of gravity. He said the harm Mr Flynn caused was significant and profound and has had a life-changing impact for Mr McLoughlin.
He said the apology made in court was very late. “It's a little bit mealy-mouthed and comes because of the predicament he finds himself,” he said. Judge O'Shea remarked that if he was genuinely sorry he wouldn't have applied to Judge Greally to vacate his original plea.
“I'm not entirely convinced he is remorseful,” the Judge said.
He said, to him, one of the most harrowing aspects of the case was Mr McLoughlin standing in a field crying because he couldn't do things he normally could do.
He described Mr McLoughlin's view that he didn't want to see Mr Flynn jailed as “hugely magnanimous” given that he was knocked unconscious and that he, his wife and daughter were traumatised.
“It just goes to show the decent streak that is in Mr McLoughlin the way that he behaves towards his fellow citizens,” the Judge said.
He said there wouldn't be any function in sending Mr Flynn to prison.
Judge O'Shea convicted and sentenced him as stated on conditions that he enter a bond that he remain of sober habits and that he not be within 50 yards of Mr McLoughlin at any time.
The Judge told Insp Carla Curry, prosecuting, that it does not require Mr Flynn to commit a criminal offence. He said if the Gardai answer a complaint or find him intoxicated he can be arrested and brought back before the court and will serve the nine months.
Judge O'Shea said he wanted to make it “crystal clear” that if Mr Flynn finds himself in the vicinity of Mr McLoughlin he is positively obliged to remove himself. “If he is in a public house and Mr McLoughlin comes in, he's to leave,” he said.
Judge O'Shea said he was not going down the route of compensation as he considered the sentence issued much more appropriate.
The public order charge from Gordon's Cosy Corner was taken into consideration.
Recognisances were fixed.