Saturday 21 September 2019

Man afraid for his safety behind bars

A SERIAL OFFENDER begged a Judge not to jail him on Monday as he fears for his safety behind bars because of an ongoing Traveller feud.

Representatives of Patrick Stokes, 99 Barnam Manor, Tullow, said he would be 'at grave risk' in Mountoy, Wheatfield and Cork prisons because of an alleged 'national' feud between the Stokes family and several other members of the Travelling community.

Stokes, who has 33 previous convictions, appeared before Judge Donnchadh O Buachalla on a charge of stealing a flat screen TV from Xtravision at North Main Street in Wexford on November 7.

He begged for an alternative to a custodial sentence, and his solicitor claimed he was under 'great stress' because of the prospect of a spell behind bars.

Judge O Buachalla, however, said he could not overlook the defendants 33 previous convictions and imposed a four-month sentence.

Recognisances were fixed for the event of an appeal. When told that the defendant would have difficulties finding an independent bailsman, Judge O Buachalla agreed to bail in his own bond.

The previous week at Wexford District Court, the defendant pleaded not guilty to stealing the television and was remanded in custody for seven days.

The defendant's brother James Stokes told the court that he and his wife Martina had already pleaded guilty in relation to the theft.

Gardai produced CCTV footage in court and pointed to the defendant on the screen.

The defendant's solicitor put it to Detective Garda Pat O' Brien that the Gardai had no evidence linking Patrick Stokes to the theft.

However, Detective Garda O' Brien replied that the footage clearly showed him interfering with the television and he was also seen distracting the staff by going to the counter a number of times.

The solicitor said the footage showed Martina Stokes taking the television after James Stokes had loosed the fittings at the back.

In his defence, the accused admitted that he leaned over the back of the television to check the thickness or thinness of the screen. He then left the shop. He said he wasn't involved in the theft of the television and if he had known what his brother was doing, he wouldn't have let him take it.

Judge O Buachalla said that 'wittingly or unwittingly', the defendant found himself caught up in the events.

The solicitor said his client was married with two small children and his wife was pregnant with their third child. He was looking for as much leniency as the court might impose.

'His wife is going to be in a desperate situation if you decided to impose a custodial sentence. She is entirely dependent on him,' he said.

After remanding the defendant in custody for a week to consider his sentence, Judge O Buachalla decided to impose a four month prison term, but allowing the defendant leave to appeal.

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