Court hears farmer threatened man with slash hook in burial plot row

By Gordon Deegan

A 68-year-old south Co. Galway farmer produced a slash hook at a graveyard and told an 81-year-old man “I’m going to cut the f**king head off you” in a row over burial plots, a court has heard.

At Gort District Court today, Thursday, May 28, the farmer (and graveyard owner), from the Gort area, pleaded guilty to the assault of another man at the graveyard in the Kinvara area on October 1 last.

He also pleaded guilty to engaging in threatening, abusive and insulting words with the intention to cause a breach of the peace at the graveyard.

Garda sergeant Daithí Cronin told Judge Patrick Durcan that, in light of the two guilty pleas, the state was applying to strike out the remaining charge of producing a slash hook during the course of a dispute that was capable of inflicting serious injury, under the Offensive Weapons and Firearms Act.

Outlining what occurred, Sgt Cronin stated that the victim and his friends were in the graveyard where they were carrying out remedial works when they were approached by the farmer who alleged they were trespassing.

Sergeant Cronin stated that “there had been an ongoing dispute with [the two men] and other people in relation to burial plots at the graveyard.”

Solicitor for the defendant, Colman Sherry, told the court: “In cases like this, the less said the better. There is history and suffice to say there are very few burial plots left.”

Sergeant Cronin stated: “During the course of the confrontation…[the defendant] pushed [the victim], causing both…to fall to the ground.”

Sergeant Cronin told the court that the defendant told the victim: “I’m going to cut the f**king head off you.”

Judge Durcan commented: “This is a very serious matter – and all of this occurred on consecrated ground.”

The judge added that the evidence he heard was that the defendant had a slash hook in his hand during the confrontation. Sergeant Cronin stated that what occurred was a technical assault and it was all over within a matter of seconds.

Mr. Sherry said that it was important to state that the part of the slash-hook being used (in the assault) was the handle (rather than the blade).

Mr. Sherry stated: “[The defendant] was holding the blade and [the victim] caught the handle of it and the matter was over in seconds.”

The victim subsequently went to a local Garda station to state that he had been assaulted.

Mr. Sherry stated that the defendant owns the graveyard and that it is not under the control of Galway County Council. He told the court that his client “has looked after this graveyard all his life”.

The solicitor stated that the accused subsequently went to all parties and apologised for what occurred, adding: “He can’t explain his actions. He is extremely contrite about this. He has never been in a court room in his life until today. He is here with his wife.”

Mr. Sherry stated that the chances of his client re-offending “are nil”.

In response, Judge Durcan said: “I believe that this is a case that should be resolved. We don’t want divided communities. We don’t want victors and vanquished.”

Judge Durcan struck out the weapon charge and stated that he would adjourn the case concerning the two guilty pleas to June 25 to allow the victim – who wasn’t in court today – to give victim impact evidence.