A 44-YEAR-OLD Macroom man walked free from court last week when a judge directed a jury to find him not guilty of assault causing serious harm to his wife, after she refused to give evidence against him.
Anthony Kelleher, a fitter from Curraheen, Raleigh North, Macroom, had denied assault causing serious harm to his wife Siobhan (39) at their home outside Macroom on June 12th 2014.
But Siobhan Kelleher, who walked to the witness box with the aid of a stick, told Judge Brian O’Callaghan that she didn’t wish to give evidence in the case and she assured him that she had not been co-erced, intimidated or bullied by anyone into not testifying.
‘It’s my own decision,’ said Ms Kelleher, who was brought to court on foot of a bench warrant, after she failed to appear in court on Monday.
Mr Kelleher’s barrister Ciaran O’Loughlin SC pointed out that this was his client’s third appearance before a jury on the charge, being first convicted in February 2016 and three months later he was sentenced to eight years in jail, before successfully having the conviction set aside by the Court of Appeal in October 2016.
He had then been arraigned again before a jury last February for a retrial, only for Ms Kelleher to again fail to show up and the case had been adjourned until this week when the current jury was sworn in.
Judge O’Callaghan noted that the case resulted from an alleged assault which happened exactly four years this week.
He said that the court had to take the view that ‘enough was enough’ and there must be finality to proceedings. ‘I note the prosecution have made substantial efforts to bring this matter to trial but sometimes one’s best efforts are not good enough,’ he added.
Judge O’Callaghan said he had to look at the matter in a global manner in terms of fairness and he acknowledged Mr Kelleher had spent five months in custody between his conviction and successful appeal and he believed that directing the jury to find him not guilty was the appropriate order.
Last Monday, the jury of nine men and three women were given an outline of the case.
They heard that at 18.49 on June 12, 2014, a 999 call was made by Mr Kelleher requesting an ambulance, stating that Ms Kelleher had fallen down the stairs and was unconscious and that she had her tongue between her teeth and seemed to be bleeding very heavily.
But when doctors at Cork University Hospital examined her, they found her injuries were not consistent with such a fall.
Ms Kelleher was put in an induced coma for several days and when she came around, it was found she had a stroke, a liver laceration, lung collapse, fractured vertebrae, fractures to her left wrist and right little finger, bruising to her left leg, buttocks and both ankles, and abrasions to her forehead.
The jury heard that the hospital became concerned that those injuries were inconsistent with the description of how the injuries were sustained so gardaí were contacted and, as a result of their investigation, the DPP directed Mr Kelleher be charged with assault causing serious harm.
In her first statement made on June 16th 2014 from her hospital bed at CUH, Ms Kelleher told Det Sgt Joanne O’Brien told how she was at home having a glass of wine to calm her nerves before her husband came home when they had a row and he attacked her.
‘He started ranting and raving and said I was staggering around. I went to bed for an hour. Anthony dragged me out of bed by the hair and threw me across the corridor and down the stairs. The next thing I knew I woke up in hospital,’ she said in her statement.
A native of Lixnaw in Co Kerry, Ms Kelleher told in a second statement to gardai how the row started when her husband expressed his dissatisfaction with the meal that she had prepared for him when he came home.
‘We were having pork chops that day. I put the dinner on the table. He complained that the pork chops were cooked in the oven. He wanted them fried. He is a perfectionist. He never says thanks. I went to bed and covered my head with the blankets.
‘He came after me and asked me what did I say? I said, “Nothing, I’m sorry.” I put my hands to my face to save my head. I didn’t want bruises. I had my hair in a ponytail and he pulled me out of bed by the ponytail. There were clumps of hair coming out. He dragged me by the hair and threw me downstairs and kicked me on the way down. I got to the first landing and he kicked me the rest of the way down. I was out cold and I don’t remember anything else until I woke in hospital with a tube down my throat.’
Mr Kelleher did not go into the witness box during his original trial but he did make statements to gardai which were also entered into evidence in which he said he believed that his wife had a drink problem.
‘Siobhán fell down the stairs at our home. She smokes an odd cigarette now and again. She would get very unsteady on her feet… if she has a cigarette. (Later) She fell against the wall,’ said Mr Kelleher, later denying to gardai that he ever hit, kicked or threw his wife down the stair.
Judge Ó Donnabháin had noted that Ms Kelleher had refused to give evidence in the case against her husband but there was medical evidence that supported statements she made to gardai, stating he assaulted her. He imposed an eight-year sentence on the accused.
However, eight months later, Mr Kelleher successfully appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal which said it was not satisfied that he had received a fair trial and directed that he be retried on the single charge of assault, causing harm, to his wife.