A Co Donegal man who tortured his neighbours for almost two decades has escaped going to jail because of his poor health.
John Patterson, 63, subjected his neighbours to a campaign of terror for no apparent reason.
Patterson appeared at Letterkenny District Court charged with a number of offences which occurred between June and August last year.
Patterson, of Meenlougher, Castlefinn, dumped rubbish on his neighbour’s land, attacked his car with a stick and drove his car directly at his neighbour.
The charges also included four counts of driving while he was disqualified.
Judge Conal Gibbons said he had never before across someone charged with four counts of driving while disqualified.
Garda Sinead McLaughlin outlined the series of events to Judge Gibbons.
She revealed that on June 19th last year John McMonagle was driving his tractor in the Castlefinn area when he passed Patterson who was sitting in his jeep.
Patterson then drove past Mr McMonagle and blocked a junction with his jeep. Patterson then got out of his jeep and struck the tractor with a stick. Mr McMonagle got out of the tractor and took the stick off Patterson, who then threatened that he would get someone to “give him a hammering”.
In a second incident on August 2nd Frank Gallagher was driving on the main road approaching Patterson’s yard when Patterson drove out in front of him and Mr Gallagher had to serve to avoid him.
On August 8th Mr Gallagher was driving past the home of Patterson and he found him standing in the middle of the road.
Mr Gallagher had to stop and then as the drove past, Patterson struck his vehicle a number of times with a stick.
On August 19th Mr Gallagher’s daughter Clare was approaching the family home on her way back from a night out at around midnight when she saw a vehicle drive off as she approached home.
As she saw Patterson’s vehicle drive off, she found a large amount of litter dumped at the entrance.
Documents containing Patterson’s name were found in the litter.
On May 27th John Patterson was pulled over and failed to produce insurance and his driving licence after a lawful demand was made.
On all occasions Patterson was disqualified from driving.
Inspector Michael Harrison said Patterson had previous convictions for assault, careless driving, public order offences and littering, all of which he was convicted of in April 2014.
Solicitor for Patterson, Cathal Quinn, said his client had a large number of health issues including psychiatric illness, heart disease and diabetes. He said he has had issues with alcohol but has “been off it for six months”.
He said Patterson “went off the rails” in 2013 and 2014 and his marriage broke down. Patterson, he said, had been a substantial farmer and was well respected in the area but he had “developed some time of persecution complex” and imagined some of his neighbours “were against him”.
“They were not the acts of a rational being,” he said. Judge Conal Gibbons said his behaviour did not appear to be from “someone who is dealing with issues in particular way”.
He said the fact that he has been driving without insurance repeatedly was “appalling”.
“It is obvious to me that me he has suffered some sort of illness,” he said. He told Patterson said that if he had not been made aware of the medical issues “you would be on your way to Castlerea at this stage”.
The judge said that Patterson’s neighbours had been very understanding.
Mr Gallagher, who was accompanied by his daughter and son, told the court “this has nothing to do with his health”. “He has tortured my family for years and this has been going on for 17 years,” he said. “We have been living in hell for 17 years.” He said his and his wife’s health have been affected by the problems caused by Patterson.
The judge said the issues “have come to a halt”.
“Today is the final day. I wish you and your family well and hope that you don’t have any more difficulty. If you do, talk to the gardaí and they will deal with it.”
Patterson was fined a total of €800 plus €180 witness expenses and was disqualified from driving for four years.