A DISTRICT court judge has expressed ‘some concern’ that four complaints made by a citizen about alleged bullying by a traffic warden appeared not to have been taken seriously by Council bosses.
Judge James McNulty made the comment at Clonakilty District Court last week when convicting two brothers – who work as couriers – of the assault of traffic warden, John O’Dwyer in Clonakilty on April 29th 2021.
Both Alan Murphy (37) of 9 Assumption Place, Clonakilty and Shane Nugent (28) of the same address denied assaulting Mr O’Dwyer and causing him harm.
John O’Dwyer told the court that he was on duty that day when he saw Alan Murphy talking to a man on Pearse Street with broken English about an undelivered parcel.
‘I later spoke to this man on McCurtain Hill and as we were talking, Alan got out of his van and started giving out to me. He had his brother Shane on his speaker phone and he said he was coming over to us,’ said Mr O’Dwyer.
‘Shane then arrived and ran over to us but Alan got in between us. Shane threw a punch but missed me but landed another punch and hit me on the mouth. Alan then started punching me as I grabbed Shane’s t-shirt and we all fell backwards.’
Mr O’Dwyer said he was getting punches and kicks from both sides while up against a car and that his teeth of both sides of his mouth were chipped.’
Mr O’Dwyer said he would have had dealings with both brothers around the town as both were courier drivers and that Alan told him earlier not to be discussing his business with anyone.
He denied being verbally abusive to Alan Murphy when questioned by solicitor Conrad Murphy, who represented both brothers.
‘You said to Alan, “hit me, hit me” that day and you have a history with him and you told him you were going to make his life as difficult as possible and that he couldn’t do his job,’ said Mr Murphy.
Mr Murphy said that in his statement to gardaí made on May 7th 2021, Mr O’Dwyer never mentioned anything about being kicked and that he had fallen backwards onto a parked car.
‘My client Shane said an argument occurred and things got heated and that you butted him in the head with your cap,’ said Mr Murphy.
Witness Aaron McGrath, who was sitting in his car on McCurtain Hill said that it was plain to see that Mr O’Dwyer was trying to block being hit by both men and that the incident was over in seconds. Another witness, Carol O’Reilly, said she saw a man with a ripped t-shirt during the scuffle and that Mr O’Dwyer was in between the two men.
Shane Nugent, who works as a self-employed courier, said Mr O’Dwyer had been harassing his brother for a long time and he told him he would pursue it with his bosses when the incident occurred on McCurtain Hil.
‘He pushed me with two hands and I pushed him back and then he ripped my t-shirt and I swung with my left fist. I was angry and in disbelief to hear what he was saying to my brother and I reacted wrong after he butted me with his cap,’ said Mr Nugent.
Alan Murphy told the court that he once received two parking tickets from Mr O’Dwyer in one day and that he was always ‘goading’ him and calling him names and saying he couldn’t do his job properly.
‘On the day in question when he saw me trying to sort the lost parcel he came over and said “are you stressed?” and I told him to f*** off,’ said Mr Murphy, who said he got out of the van because he saw Mr O’Dwyer talking to his customer and pointing his finger at him.
‘I went over to ask what the problem was and he called me thick and stupid and I called him fat and a prick and he goaded me to hit him. He had a strange look in his eye and he seemed a lot more aggressive.’
Mr Murphy told the court that he had contacted the Council’s office in Kent Street four times about Mr O’Dwyer’s behaviour to him, but nothing was done about it.
Judge McNulty said that Mr Nugent was the main aggressor and initiated the physicals and that Mr Murphy was involved in the assault, but to a lesser extent.
‘The court expresses some concern that Mr Murphy’s complaints about Mr O’Dwyer do not appear to have been taken seriously. He went four times to the Council to complain that he was being bullied and harassed by a traffic warden and that’s something that needs attention,’ said Judge McNulty.
‘The court appreciates that it can’t be easy work as a traffic warden, but an experienced traffic warden should be able to deal with issues and not engage in disparaging, offensive and personal remarks to a citizen.’
He said that that is ‘way beyond his brief’ and if that was happening, then it should be addressed by his employers.
‘The court considers this to be a significant part of this case and Mr Murphy’s evidence is believable and that in turn determines penalty.’
While he said the court would make no finding as to Mr Murphy’s allegations regarding bullying from a traffic warden, he said that if any of it is true then ‘it’s disturbing and alarming that such a thing would happen.’
Judge McNulty noted that Alan Murphy has no previous convictions and was ‘goaded and taunted’ in the course of his work, which is a matter of concern. He said he wasn’t the chief protagonist and he granted him a conditional discharge for three years with no probation services supervision.
Judge McNulty said that Shane Nugent, who has no previous convictions, acted as the aggressor in what were extenuating circumstances. He was given a conditional discharge for three years as well, with no probation services supervision, on condition he pay John O’Dwyer €1,000 within 30 days.