A 27-YEAR old man living on Coolmountain was found to be in breach of a court order not to disturb his neighbours with loud music and sentenced to 90 days in jail.
After imposing the sentence at Bantry District Court last week, Manu Gohl’s solicitor, Anthony Coomey, appealed to Judge James McNulty to suspend the sentence rather than send his client to jail.
Although he had previously held the defendant to be in contempt of court for non-compliance with the order, Judge James McNulty agreed to suspend the sentence, provided the defendant keeps the peace and is of good behaviour for two years.
In addition, the judge issued the following instruction: ‘There will be no further breach of the court order made on September 18th 2012 by him, or anyone else, with his knowledge or consent.’ And, he explicitly stated: ‘No one is to use his sound system – there will be peace in the valley.’
Neighbours from near and far gave evidence that the ‘duff, duff, duff’ sound of the rave music coming from Manu Gohl’s sound system could be heard nine miles away, while nearer neighbours weren’t able to hear their own TVs.
Michael Hobbs, the man who made the initial application for a noise nuisance restraint order in December 2010, said he lived a quarter mile from Manu’s house and was unable to conduct maths grinds.
The complainant – who told the court that he wasn’t beyond throwing a sleeping bag into his car and driving to a place, any place, where he could get some sleep –said: ‘It is physically distressing. It is like an assault. It is unbearable.
‘I have suffered. I am suffering,’ he added, a sentiment shared by Manu’s nearest neighbour, Katrin Schwart, who kept a record of the noise nuisance coming from just 50 yards away.
In 2013, she referred to 116 incidences that could last anything from one minute to three days in duration.
‘What is the most irritating thing for me is the bass,’ she said. ‘It makes the windows rattle and it sends ripples in the washing up liquid.’
Katrin Schwart gave evidence that despite repeated undertakings to ‘cease and desist from playing, making, broadcasting, or amplifying music or sound at any time at any place in the area of Coolmountain,’ as per the court order, the defendant had in a ten-day period since the last court sitting been in contravention of it five times, including a New Year’s Eve party that lasted a couple of days.
Michael Curtis, another Coolmountain resident, spoke on Manu’s behalf.
He has known the unemployed musician all his life and is aware of his passion for music.
He said Manu was raised close to the community centre, a place where everyone historically would congregate to make music.
‘Now, it happens in people’s houses,’ he said.
Judge McNulty informed the court that he visited Coolmountain on the morning of Wednesday, January 28th and could see for himself how close Katrin Schwart’s house is to that of Manu Gohl’s.
When he spoke on behalf of his client, Anthony Coomey said there was ‘no maliciousness’ in Manu’s action.
He said he is just someone who is ‘passionate’ about music – passionate to the point that he is almost ‘consumed by it.’
The solicitor for the complainant, Ms O’Leary, described Coolmountain as ‘a unique community.’
She said she accepted that Many Gohl was ‘reared at a time of loud music and parties and a liberal way of life,’ but she said there was – by way of one example – no excuse for five breaches of the court order over a ten-day period.
In summing up, Judge McNulty addressed the witnesses and asked if anyone had any objection to him using the term New Age Traveller and one man, partially in jest, suggested he use the term New Age Settler instead because they, as a community, have been resident in West Cork for 30 years or more.
Judge McNulty described the New Age Travellers as ‘refugees from Margaret Thatcher’s England’ who are now ‘long established and well regarded in West Cork.’
He said these people, Manu Gohl’s neighbours, were not aggressive or hasty in taking their class action against their relatively young, orphaned neighbour, but neither could they allow Manu’s hobby continue to cause excessive noise and nuisance.
The judge said people have a constitutional right to live in peace and that the complainants clearly chose the rural idyll of Coolmountain over big city life. ‘Recourse to the courts,’ he concluded, ‘is the civilised remedy.’