A 23 year-old man received a seven and a half years prison sentence with the final three years suspended at Clonmel Circuit Court for his role in "terrorising" residents in Fethard.
Judge Tom Teehan handed down this sentence to Michael Doyle with an address at Ballybeg, Littleton who pleaded guilty to burglary and assault at Slievenamon Close, Fethard on April 9 last year, assault causing harm and burglary at Gortanoir, Fethard on March 31 last year as well as two thefts from Centra in Fethard in April last year.
The Judge said it was important that the word went out that the Circuit Court won't tolerate violence, threats of violence and intimidation as he sentenced the father-of-two.
The court heard two other members of Michael Doyle's family are facing charges before the court.
Sgt. Kieran O'Regan gave evidence that a resident of Slievenamon Close in Fethard contacted the gardai at 10.11pm on April 9, 2016 about a row in the estate. When gardai arrived, there were a large number of people out in the estate.
The incident had stopped before the gardai arrived and three panes of glass were broken in the front door of a house. Arising from this, the gardai investigated a number of other incidents relating to the activities of the Doyle family over the previous two weeks.
A number of statements were taken from residents alleging various crimes committed by members of this family. Some of the residents reporting incidents didn't want to give statements to the gardai because they feared intimidation.
A young man living in Slievenamon Close and his mother gave statements describing how the front door of their home was damaged on April 9. The young man outlined that he was chatting to a friend outside his house when Michael Doyle came up to him. Doyle said "what are you f**king looking at" and came into the garden of the complainant's home. The young man told Michael Doyle to get out of his garden. Michael Doyle came up to him with his fists raised. Doyle hit the young man, who struck him back in self defence. While the complainant was fighting Michael Doyle to get him out of the garden, a number of members of the Doyle family drove up in a red car. The complainant retreated into his house. The Doyles tried to stop him getting inside his front door and tried to drag him back outside. The young man and his mother managed to get the front door closed but they kicked and banged the door smashing three of the six planes of glass.
Prosecuting barrister Quirk read a Victim Impact Statement from the injured party. He said he suffered bruising and swelling to his body and neck and recounted how he was also attacked by Michael Doyle and another person that night which resulted in more cuts and bruises.
The youth outlined that he was paranoid after the attack and was always looking over his shoulder in case he was attacked again. He was scared to go out for a long time after the attack because of the threats made to him.
He said he was worried for his mother and little brother who was 12 years-old at the time and was terrified. He wished the court case had been dealt with sooner. He now just wanted to move on and live without fear of being harassed.
His mother's Victim Impact Statement described how she suffered from anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, panic attacks and fear following the incident. She didn't want to be alone in her house and wanted to make sure all the doors and windows were locked. She went to her GP because of her problems sleeping and was put on tablets for anxiety for a few months. She said she was also afraid to go down town in case she met members of the Doyle family.
Her youngest son suffered the most. He had problems sleeping and was constantly looking out the window if he heard a car. He didn't leave the house on his own for months afterwards.
"I am a working mother with two sons. We don't bother anyone. We just get on with our lives. That night our lives were turned upside down and it's still affecting our lives one and a half years on. We are living in fear that once this is over they won't leave us alone," she added.
Sgt. O'Regan also told the court John Hickey made a statement alleging he was assaulted by Michael Doyle at his home at Gortanoir, Fethard. He told gardai, the Doyle family had two vicious mixed breed dogs. He recorded a video of these two dogs coming into his driveway at 10am on March 31, 2016, which meant he was unable to leave his home. He uploaded the video onto his Facebook page. A lot of people put comments up on the internet about the video and made suggestions about how to deal with the dogs. At 1pm the bell rang on Mr Hickey's door. He looked outside and saw two members of the Doyle family. Michael Doyle wasn't one of them. When he answered the door, he was punched into the face by a man. He was standing in his hallway at the time. He then saw Michael Doyle run into the driveway. He attempted to close his door but Michael Doyle and the other man, who had assaulted him burst into the hallway and punched him at least 20 times. He was pumping blood when they left the house.
The court heard that a five year-old relative was at Mr Hickey's house at the time and was extremely distressed about what happened.
Mr Hickey suffered bruising and tenderness to his face. His GP wrote a letter supporting his application to change his accommodation and requested that it be urgently considered. The letter was read to the court.
Sgt. O'Regan said Mr Hickey was initially fearful about making a complaint to the gardai.
In his Victim Impact Statement, Mr Hickey said he was boxed in the ribs, face, everywhere. He rang for an ambulance after the attack because the bleeding was so bad. He had pains for nearly a month afterwards and the incident drove his anxiety and depression "through the roof". He was afraid to leave his house for a long time afterwards.
The court heard Michael Doyle was in custody since May after his bail was revoked because he failed to turn up for court. He had 20 previous convictions for assault causing harm, theft, handling stolen property, road traffic offences and drugs possession.
Sgt. O'Regan said he was asked to inform the court that the complainants in these cases were still in fear.
Defence barrister Edward O'Mahony BL said his client wrote letters of apology to John Hickey and to the court and was willing to give an undertaking that the victims and their families and any other residents in Fethard had nothing to fear from him in the future.
In relation to the attack on Mr Hickey, he submitted that Michael Doyle initially attended Mr Hickey's home to stop what was happening but he got involved and accepted he did assault him. His client also accepted he fought with the young mnan at Slievenamon Close on April 9 But Mr O'Mahony pointed out that not all the injuries suffered by both victims were linked with his client. "The court has to have regard to the joint enterprise nature of the offences," he argued.
In relation to the court's decision to revoke Doyle's bail in May, Mr O'Mahony explained that his client failed to turn up for court because he travelled to Nottingham in England for treatment for his addiction problem in February. It was a case of misplaced good intentions and he stressed his client was taking the contempt matter very seriously.
He submitted letters from the drug rehabilitation centre in England and from Doyle's fiancée to the court along with the letters of apology. He also submitted a number of educational certificates his client obtained in prison. He attended addiction counselling and workshops on alternatives to violence.
Mr O'Mahony said the vast majority of Doyle's offences were committed in 2016 at the height of his alcohol and drugs abuse problem.
He pointed out that his client was free of drugs since he was taken into custody. He grew up a lot in the past eight months and was now willing to better himself. This was his first time to serve a custodial sentence and it was a wake up call for him. He missed out on the recent development of his two young children and also missed the funerals of his uncle and a close friend.
Mr O'Mahony concluded that Doyle had done as much as any person could to show the court the seriousness of his commitment to rehabilation and asked Judge Teehan to take into account the steps he has taken since his bail was revoked. "He is someone unlikely to come back before the court again. It's likely to be his last offence," he added.
Judge Teehan said it would be difficult to understate the seriousness of these offences. Michael Doyle was part of a family group which sought to terrorise other people living in close proximity to them.
"The events that occurred were hugely frightening to a lot of people, including the 12 year-old brother of one of the victims. The victims themselves suffered very considerably.
"This was the Doyle family terrorising, taking the law into their own hands without any justification whatsoever and invading the privacy of two homes in a most egregious manner. It would be difficult to overstate how seriously this court views these matters."
He said the court had to take into account retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence in imposing sentence and it was important that the word went out that the court won't tolerate violence, threats of violence and intimidation.
It was fair to say, he said, that the lives of the victims in this case were changed by what happened a year and a half ago.
He noted that despite his relatively short number of years on the planet, Doyle had accumulated quite a number of convictions and some of these were for offences of a violent and aggressive nature which meant that the offences before the court were not out of character for him. The court couldn't disregard the Probation Service's assessment that there was a high risk he would re-offend.
He criticised Doyle for leaving the country while on bail for these offences. While the fact he went to seek rehabilitation ameliorated the seriousness of what he did to some small extent, Judge Teehan said he should not be in any doubt that any breach of an undertaking to the court was very serious.
He warned Doyle he faced very bad consequences if he breached his undertaking that the victims in this case hadn't anything to fear from him.
In relation to the mitigating factors in the case, Judge Teehan regarded Doyle's plea of guilty as very important and he accepted his apology to one of his victims was contrite even if it came over a year after the incident, which was much later than he desired. The Judge was also satisfied Doyle has displayed a desire to change his life for the better since going to prison.
He sentenced Doyle to four years imprisonment for the burglary offence at Gortanoir, Fethard on March 31 last year and imposed a consecutive thres years prison term for the burglary offence at the house at Slievenamon Close on April 9 last year. A consecutive six months sentence was imposed for the contempt of court offence of breaching his bail conditions.
A concurrent three and a half year prison term was imposed for assaulting and harming John Hickey on March 31 last year. The assault on the young man at Slievenamon Close and thefts of biscuits and wine from Centra at Barrack St. in Fethard on April 8 and 16 were marked proven and taken into account.
The final three years of the seven and a half year prison sentence was suspended on condition Doyle entered into a bond to keep the peace for three years after his release, that he engaged with the Probation Service after his release and refrain from ingesting alcohol or illicit drugs.
Judge Teehan agreed to Mr O'Mahony's application to back date the commencement of the prison sentence to Apil 19.