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.
The judge said this led him to conclude that prison was not the best outcome. He handed down a two-year sentence, suspended for five years.
Gay Games Support
TAOISEACH (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has thrown his weight behind Limerick’s bid to host the Gay Games in 2018.
The bid committee will find out on October 7 if they have been successful in lobbying for the right to host the games in Limerick, which could be worth millions to the local economy.
The taoiseach has written a letter of support backing the bid to the Federation of Gay Games, in which he guaranteed a traditional Irish welcome for everyone who attends the 2018 event and said “Ireland is waiting, do come and join us.”
If Limerick is announced as the host city in Ohio this October, the games could have a multi-million euro boost for the city and the region in five years’ time.
Up to 12,000 participants are expected to take part, along with 15,000 spectators over a 10-day period in August 2018. It has been estimated that the boost to the economy could be as much as €50 million.
Limerick is vying against Paris and London in the bidding process and Cillian Flynn, spokesman for Limerick’s bid, said hosting the games would “reinforce the quality of Limerick’s sporting infrastructure and build capacity for organizing other major sporting events into the future.”
The team behind Orlando’s bid, which lost out on a shortlist spot last June to the trio of cities, have also endorsed Limerick’s bid.
Elderly and Isolated
A LOCAL study carried out on isolation and depression in aged men living alone by Mary McTernan from Grasp Life for her masters in cognitive behavior therapy makes some sad and revealing findings.
Twenty participants over 65 were interviewed as part of the study. Of the 20 local men, 12 were widowed and eight never married.
The main impact of the study describes the effects of loneliness, isolation and the lived experience of depression. The study identified the experiencing of stigma, prevalence of suicidal ideology, the role of religious belief and the awareness (or lack of) services available in the community.
In Leitrim, the age of residents over 65 is above the national average. Unaware of help and support, depression in aged men has become more prevalent, and the admission statistic for psychiatric hospitalization was almost one third higher than the female rate in Leitrim 2011.
Loneliness and isolation was reported by 13 of the participants. Bereavement, ill health (including depression), retirement relocation and lack of transport were major factors mentioned.
Becoming a burden on their family was a concern. Almost three-quarters of those interviewed did not eat salad, and a fry was the main meal of the day. Twelve had experienced feeling down and two had experienced suicidal thinking.
Of the 12 who said they felt down, only 50 percent of those prescribed medication took it due to stigma. Ten participants said they would not tell their doctor, a family member or a close friend if they needed some one to confide in. Five participants concluded that their doctor was too busy.
The changing structure of community, with local services closing down and a lack of transport giving them less chance of social interaction, was noted by many of the participants.
The study recommends older men to get out of the house once a week, and to make contact with someone each day, if only a phone call.
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