IN the interests of avoiding ‘trouble in paradise,’ Judge James McNulty dismissed, under the Probation Act, a charge brought against a man for an alleged assault on his neighbour.
Brian McPhillips (72), who lives at 99 Strand Road in Sandymount in Dublin 4, but also has a home at Rock Island in Crookhaven, denied the accusation that he assaulted Karl Grimes at Rock Island on April 26th 2021.
Gda Jonathan McCarthy investigated the offence and Insp Jason Wallace acted for the prosecution during a lengthy hearing at Bantry District Court.
In evidence, Karl Grimes (68), a media and photography lecturer, said he spoke to a neighbour, Kieran Boyd, about a mound and plants that Mr Boyd had created but was removed, and Mr Boyd went to investigate.
He said he could hear Mr Boyd raise his voice in an exclamation but did not hear him utter the words: ‘Who the f*** did this?’
Mr Grimes said that Kieran Boyd’s wife, Geraldine, called him back and they went inside their home before Mr McPhillips arrived up the laneway.
Karl Grimes, who is a member of the management company for the nine Coast Guard cottages on Rock Island, said he introduced himself to Mr McPhilips.
‘Naively,’ he said, ‘I thought he would calm down and we would talk about it, but he turned all of a sudden and his fist came up.’
Describing McPhillips as having ‘a red face and bulging eyes,’ Karl Grimes said the accused called him ‘a snake in the grass’ and he blamed him for egging Mr Boyd on.
‘It took a while for the rage to burn itself out,’ said the prosecution witness, who told the court he had felt threatened as he continued to back away from an advancing Mr McPhillips.
Karl Grimes claimed that the accused had broken a gap in the hedgerow where there was never a gap before, but Colette McCarthy, solicitor for McPhillips, produced documents which showed that the entrance, and a portion of her client’s garden, had been used in the development of the Business Expansion Scheme (BES) and he therefore had an established right to its use.
In fact, she said, her client, an engineer by profession, had worked on the BES project and had provided access, amenities and services to the cottages.
In evidence, Kieran Boyd (65) also made the claim the accused had no right to break the boundary. ‘Our book of title says he doesn’t have the right to do that,’ he told the court.
Kieran Boyd, a former banker, admitted he had ‘a John McEnroe moment’ and used the word f***. ‘I surprised myself,’ he said, ‘but I didn’t know there was anyone in the garden,’ referring to the accused who allegedly jumped up from the raspberry bushes and asked who was using bad language.
Kieran Boyd said his wife called him up and they went indoors but McPhillips followed and what transpired was ‘a very volatile situation.’
Commenting on the scene outside his door, Kieran Boyd said that it was like Karl Grimes was ‘trying to calm a vicious dog.’
‘I was going to go out, but my wife said, “Don’t, you will make it worse”.’
In evidence in his own defence, Brian McPhillips said the berm, or raised bank, and the opening which allows machinery, such as a ride-on mower, to access his garden, had been in situ since 1992.
Brian McPhillips said he arrived home to find builder’s rubble, some earth, and about €25 worth of plants where the point of access should have been.
The accused also complained that one tonne sacks of stone – with the handles cut off to make moving them more difficult – had also been used.
McPhillips admitted asking: ‘Who’s cursing?’ and calling Karl Grimes a snake in the grass but he said he did not do what was alleged against him.
‘They are gilding the lily,’ he told the judge in his direct evidence.
‘These men,’ said the judge, ‘are all at an age and stage of life that they should be enjoying.’ He urged ‘these good men’ to ‘tread carefully’ because, he said, ‘litigation, and the stress of it, will probably kill you’.
Being a director of a management company is, the judge added, a thankless task. ‘Find another eejit to take on the task,’ he advised.
Suggesting that all of them should adopt a more ‘flies with honey than vinegar’ approach to conflict resolution, the judge held that Brian McPhillips acted out of character on that day.
Taking his lack of previous convictions into consideration, and the comment made by Karl Grimes that he did not wish to see the accused sentenced, Judge McNulty dismissed the charge of assault under the Probation Act.
‘This was a small dispute best forgotten,’ he concluded.