Man who wrecked house and attacked hospital staff and Gardai is jailed

June 20, 2024

An out-of-control Donegal man who caused €18,500 of damage to a house while on a booze and drugs bender before attacking hospital staff and Gardai has been jailed for two and a half years.

Joseph Colhoun wrecked the rented Letterkenny home of his girlfriend while intoxicated on a cocktail of drink and drugs.

When the Garda Armed Support Unit eventually stormed the house, they found Colhoun in a ‘comatose’ state inside the property.

The 41-year-old appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court where he pleaded guilty to a number of charges relating mostly to a series of incidents on November 27, 2022.

He admitted wrecking the property at Killyclug in Letterkenny before reacting violently and attacking both Gardai and medical staff.

Garda Sergeant Maurice Doyle gave details of the incident which took place at the rented property of Colhoun’s then girlfriend Nicole McEntaggart.

Gardai had responded to reports of a breach of a protection order but could not get into the property.

Upon looking through the windows, officers discovered a large amount of damage had been caused to the house.

As well as damaging the living room, carpets, bathroom, toilet, kitchen table and chair, bedrooms, bannisters, sanitary ware and wardrobes, there was extensive flooding and damage to wiring to a total value of €18,500.

When the Garda Armed Response Unit did gain entry, they found Colhoun, who is originally from Lifford, comatose in the house at An Clarach, Killyclug in Letterkenny.

He was initially taken to Letterkenny Garda Station but then taken to Letterkenny University Hospital but became aggressive.

While in the ambulance at the hospital he attempted to kick a Garda and while in the hospital he spat at nursing staff and then headbutted another Garda.

Colhoun, who has 83 previous convictions for a range of incidents including hijacking a vehicle, numerous assaults, public order, obstruction, breaching barring orders, illegal fisheries charges and having offensive weapons, pleaded guilty to a range of charges.

He is charged with assault causing harm to Nicole McEntaggart at An Clarach, Killyclug, Letterkenny on November 27, 2022.

He is also charged with the coercive control of the same woman on an unknown date between January 1 and November 22, 2022 at the same address.

He is further charged with assault causing harm to Ms McEntaggart on June 27, 2022 and also on November 27, 2022.

At Letterkenny University Hospital on November 27, 2022, he was charged with assaulting Stephen McCabe under the Non Fatal Against the Persons Act.

He is also charged with the obstruction of Garda David Lee at Letterkenny University Hospital on November 27, 2022.

At the same location and same date he pleaded guilty to assaulting causing harm to Garda David Lee.

Colhoun is also charged with the obstruction of Garda Shane Wall at Letterkenny University Hospital while he is charged with assaulting nurse Veronica Dunleavy at Letterkenny University Hospital, both on November 27, 2022.

Another charge of breaching a barring order – which was imposed on November 16, 2022 – at An Clarach, Killyclug, Letterkenny on November 27, 2022, was also included.

Although Ms McEntaggart did not wish to give a victim impact statement, an earlier statement she gave to Gardai detailed how they had met on Facebook in January 2022.

Despite the relationship starting well, Colhoun turned to drink and drugs and that he would hit her but that she was afraid to leave him in case he killed her.

She said he constantly wanted to know where she was and that he would degrade her calling her fat and a whore and also called her a ‘teletubby’ as she was trying to lose weight at the time.

Barrister for Colhoun, Ms Kelda Doherty said her client was in a highly intoxicated state when armed Gardai arrived at the house and was actually comatose when they entered the house.

Garda Sergeant Doyle said he had known Colhoun for ten years, having been stationed at Lifford Garda Station.

He said that when sober, Colhoun was compliant and easy to deal with but that when he has drink and drugs on him that he was a “tinderbox.”

When Ms Doherty asked Sergeant Doyle if he agreed there was a great deal of tragedy in her client’s life, he replied “That’s to put it lightly, yes.”

The court was told that as well as the death of his mother, his brother had died in tragic circumstances and that his father had also taken his own life.

However, since going into custody in November, 2022, Colhoun had made real strides to overcome his addictions with a large number of counselling sessions as well as undertaking courses in first aid, restorative justice, overdose prevention and victim awareness.

Ms Doherty also noted that her client had entered a guilty plea very early on.

She also referred to a probation report on Colhoun which did acknowledge his remorse and does suggest he was in a very poor frame of mind and that it was reduced down to substance abuse at the time.

Passing sentence Judge John Aylmer addressed each of the charges placing the charge of criminal damage in the mid-range of such offences and one which merited a sentence of three years before mitigation.

He also allocated various other sentences for the other charges including the coercive control of Ms McEntaggart, the assaults on Gardai and nurse Veronica Dunleavy and also the breach of a protection order.

He also reduced these on a range of mitigating factors including an early guilty plea, Colhoun’s serious efforts to rehabilitate himself including 17 sessions of addiction counselling and also the number of courses he has undertaken while in custody.

All these sentences were also reduced after Judge Aylmer took into account the mitigating factors in the case.

On the headline sentence on the criminal damage charge, he reduced the sentence to one of two and a half years allowing all the other sentences to run concurrently.

The sentence was backdated to when Colhoun went into custody in November 2022 with Judge Aylmer noting that he will be released in a matter of a couple of months.

Colhoun, who appeared by videolink from Castlerea Prison, told the court he plans to go straight into rehabilitation on his release saying arrangements are already being made for this.