Two Ballybofey men in their 50s have been ordered to stay away from each other after an incident that saw one of them attack the other wielding a knife.
Letterkenny District Court heard that Kenneth McLaughlin (50) went to the home of Robert Connell (52) at 2 Sessiagh View, Ballybofey, on the morning of June 25, 2016.
McConnell was charged with assault while McLaughlin was charged wiht trespassing wiht a knife in relation to the alleged incident.
Connell told the court how he was watching tv when McLaughlin came up his driveway and ‘chapped the front door’.
“I opened the door and immediately he (McLaughlin) swung a knife at my stomach,” Connell claimed.
“I asked why he was there and he swung at me again. I asked four or five times and he swung each time with the knife. I noticed one of the neighbours’ was looking out a window with a child so I said to him: ‘Listen, the neighbours are watching, just give it up’. That took his attention away from me so I took the opportunity and floored him.”
Connell claimed that he rolled McLaughlin, who he said was ‘gurgling’, onto his back and rang for an ambulance. Connell contended that McLaughlin continued to ‘struggle and fight back’ while he was crouched over him.
Connell said he was on the phone for 40 minutes to Gardai while ambulance personnel also arrived on the scene.
“It was early in the day and I didn’t know he had a knife initially,” Connell said. “I just saw the blade and I didn’t know what kind of knife it was. I never spoke to the man in my life. I was shocked to see him coming to the door.”
Solicitor for McLaughlin, Rory O’Brien, put it to Connell that he made the story up and suggested the knife in question belonged to Connell.
“My client said he attended to discuss ongoing issues you have with his son,” Mr O’Brien said. “You brought your knife out and left it there to discredit Mr McLaughlin. You concocted this story to cast aspersions on my client. He never had a knife and you savagely punched him for no reason.”
McLaughlin said he had gone to Connell’s home to ‘try to come to some sort of agreement’ after Connell had an alleged dispute with his son.
“I was on the pavement and I put my hands up and said: ‘I’m not here for any confrontation. I want to speak to you about the bad blood between you and my son’,” McLaughlin told the court.
“I heard him on the phone and heard him say about a knife. ‘What f*****g knife?’ I said.”
McLaughlin then claimed that Connell hadn’t punched him, but that he had struck him on the cheek with a lump hammer.
“It is impossible that a punch could have done that damage to a man’s face. My face looked like the elephant man. My right eye and my left eye were burst. It was only a couple of weeks later when I noticed the marks on my cheek.
“My lights went out when he hit me. I was out for quite a while. I was disorientated and in severe pain.”
McLaughlin said he drank two vodkas that morning before going to Connell’s house ‘for a bit of encouragement….to ease my nerves’.
Solicitor for Connell, Frank Dorian, said McLaughlin didn’t know ‘who did what’.
“You didn’t convey the lump hammer statement to the Gardai. You abandoned that he had punched you and replaced it with the idea that he struck you with a hammer,” Mr Dorrian said.
McLaughlin said he and his fiancee were ‘at each others throats’ before he went to Connell and he became so agitated that he punched a hole in the wall.
Garda Kilcoyne said he arrived a the scene following a call at 3:25pm. He observed in a statement that McLaughlin appeared ‘very intoxicated’ and believed he had ‘consumed more alcohol than he stated’. Garda Kilcoyne said that he observed a knife on the window ledge of the house.
Mr O’Brien said the incident had ‘an element of untruth’ and noted the lack of fingerprinting of the knife was ‘crucial’.
Mr Dorrian said McLaughlin had arrived at Connell’s home ‘in a very belligerent frame of mind’. “Someone came to his house with a knife while he was watching television. That person was mumbling incoherently and was swinging a knife.
“The problem with the case is that Mr McLaughlin doesn’t know what happened and is three hours out on his timing. He turns up today and says he was hit with a hammer. It all has a bit of a gladiatorial feel to it, really.”
Judge Paul Kelly said he was satisfied that Connell had a case to answer for having used excessive force, while he said McLaughlin’s statements about being hit with a lump hammer were ‘entirely bizarre’. Judge Kelly said that there was no evidence that the knife had come from Connell’s home and he could ‘attach no credibility’ to McLaughlin’s evidence.
“The offence was initiated by Mr McLaughlin calling to the house with a knife,” Judge Kelly said. “Mr Connell could have avoided the incident by closing the door. Not only did he not do that, but he continued to advance towards Mr McLaughlin on five different occasions. He was pursuing him.
“Mr Connell was confronted by the most unlikely situation: an incoherent drunk man wielding a knife. His best course of action would have been to shut it off by closing the door. He struck Mr McLaughlin very hard resulting in injury and his action was disproportionate.
“Mr McLaughlin was the initiator of the entire incident with his ill-advised and alcohol-fuelled decision.”
McLaughlin, a 50-year-old father of three with no previous convictions, was ordered to keep the peace for 12 months on his own bond of €100.
Connell, a 52-year-old single man originally from Scotland, had previous offence for assault using harm, motor offence and misuse of drugs. He, too, was ordered to keep the peace for 12 months on his own bond of €100.
Judge Kelly ordered the men to keep out of each other’s way and to come to a resolution on their differences.