A JUDGE raised quite the arched eyebrow in court last week when he discovered the first case up before him had been brought under escort from a six-month jail sentence to answer a charge of not wearing a seatbelt.
“Isn’t that wonderful? How much did that cost?” Judge Seamus Hughes asked of Inspector Aidan Minnock.
He was speaking in the case of Larry Ward, 25, of Tullamore, Co. Offaly who had been an unsecured back seat passenger in a car stopped at Creggan Lower, Athlone on the old N6 on February 26.
Ward had been brought that morning from Castlerea prison in Co. Roscommon, as the only occupant of a prison van, with two officers, and because his offence was scheduled for the 2 p.m. list, he was due to sit under escort in the dock all day.
However, the senior escort approached the court clerk and asked if Ward’s case could be pushed up the list to allow the defendant and the two officers to return to Castlerea before lunch.
“You’ve come from Castlerea? To answer a charge of not wearing a seatbelt? Isn’t this ridiculous?” said the judge, who has been a consistent critic of such waste within the system.
The senior escort told the court that Ward was serving a six-month sentence from Cavan Circuit Court, where he had appealed a sentence handed down in the District Court there for failing to give a proper name.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” the judge asked when he noticed Ward smiling at the proceedings.
“Yeah, your honor. I was drunk and I forgot my name, and I got six months,” he explained.
“All I know was he was a passenger in a car, judge,” said the prison escort, when the judge asked him to flesh out the Cavan case. No other details were available.
As is always required before sentencing, the judge asked, “Has he got any previous [convictions]?”
“Well, definitely one,” deadpanned the inspector, to the amusement of the court.
Hughes acknowledged this and handed Ward a €100 fine, allowing the entourage return to Castlerea as soon as possible.
PRE-PLANNED, devious, selfish and evil.
These are the words used by a Newry Crown Court Judge to describe the plot by a foreign national living in the city to abduct his three children and take them to his homeland.
Mohamad Fayad of Upper Edward Street attempted fleeing Northern Ireland with his three youngsters in tow on March 29 last year.
But vigilant neighbors, who became suspicious after seeing him and the then 11-year-old twins and nine-year-old daughter leaving, contacted police.
The court heard that a very effective police swoop was operated, with Fayad tracked from Newry bus depot to Dublin Airport where he'd booked a one-way flight for him and his children, without the knowledge of their mother, to Heathrow. From there a connecting one-way flight to Beirut had been booked.
Gardai (police) were alerted and apprehended Fayad at the airport where, with the police being unable to arrest him due to the jurisdiction, he chose to leave his children with the officers and continue on his journey. But his plan was scuppered at Heathrow, where he was arrested by airport police as he attempted boarding the Beirut flight.
His luggage was searched and £3,000 worth of jewelry was found along with the children's passports and a Lebanese Identity Card, all of which had earlier been stolen from the home of Fayad's estranged wife, the children's mother.
The court heard that Fayad denied all allegations against him, claiming his intention was to take the children to Beirut for a weekend break and that he'd taken the jewelery "for safekeeping.” Texts later seen by police, sent from Fayad's phone to the children's mother, aimed to persuade her to back his story and say she'd consented to him taking the children.
But, with evidence mounting -- including the lack of return flights, the fact he'd given his landlord notice a month before the date in question, packed eight suitcases with clothes and household items and sold his car -- Fayad was charged with three counts of child abduction by a parent and burglary.
He maintained his innocence until shortly before he was due to stand trial, when he changed his plea on all charges to guilty.
Passing sentence as a well-dressed Fayad wept in the dock, Judge Kevin Finnegan said he believed the 46-year-old's Fayad's actions had been motivated by "one or all of" the factors of unhappiness at the end of his relationship with his wife, a desire to punish her for ending it, access issues and perhaps the intention of using his children as pawns with which to force reconciliation.
However, while slamming Fayad's actions as unspeakably evil, the judge added that he must consider the well-being of the children involved, stressing that the court would not wish for them to in any way ever feel burdened by feelings of guilt over their father's fate.