‘THESE two men should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. They have brought shame and disgrace upon themselves and their families.’
Judge James McNulty made those remarks at Bantry District Court after binding two brothers – both retired teachers in their mid-60s – to keep the peace after they engaged in what he described as ‘worse than bad behaviour’ at Ardgroom on May 26th 2020.
Retired Gda Martin Hegarty gave evidence against Finbarr, (otherwise known as Barry), Harrington of Canfie Road, Ardgroom, and his brother Florence Harrington of Ardgroom, who were each charged with assaulting the other.
The court was told that the background to the case relates to the estate of their late father in which title to the property, where the alleged assaults took place, is disputed.
Ray Hennessy, solicitor for Barry Harrington, said his client is the executor of his father’s estate, which is being challenged by his mother.
Nancy O’Driscoll, solicitor for Florence Harrington, pointed out that her client is managing the property on behalf of his sister. She said he has no interest in the will, is not a beneficiary, and is not seeking to be a beneficiary.
Florence Harrington gave evidence that Barry climbed over the gate at about 4pm that afternoon and ‘hit me with his shoulder.’ He denied the charge of assault brought against him.
As he was driving past, Barry Harrington said he saw the gate and door to the shed open so he called in because he had some tools stored there.He claimed his brother slammed the gate against him and, when he climbed over it, his brother punched him into the chest. While in the building, he alleged that Florence came in and ‘horsed him around the place’. He denied threatening or assaulting anyone.
The retired garda and Gda Dave Fenton were on the scene that day because there had been a report of a broken window. No reports of assaults were made on May 26th and the gardaí informed both men that their dispute was ‘a civil matter.’
Martin Hegarty recalled that ‘both were very aggressive towards each other but not to the gardaí.’
‘It wasn’t nice,’ he said, ‘to hear the exchanges between two brothers. Both are in their 60s, both professional men, and their behaviour left a lot to be desired.’
The issue became a criminal matter when, on July 13th 2020, Barry Harrington called to the garda station and made a statement of complaint regarding the incident.
Martin Hegarty said Florence was invited to make a response and in October he made counter allegations against his brother.
In mitigation, both solicitors submitted that their clients are retired schoolteachers and have no previous convictions.
Judge James McNulty found the case – the garda applications to bind to the peace, and the assault charges – proven against both men.
‘These sons of the land – who have so much by way of opportunities in life – have behaved so badly, it is inexcusable,’ said the judge.
He adjourned the case for two weeks to give both parties an opportunity to sign bonds in the sum of €20,000 to keep the peace – 10% of which was to be paid in cash.
‘The only way they can escape prison – in relation to the assault charges – is to bring further bank drafts,’ the judge added.
He gave Barry Harrington an opportunity to come to court with a bank draft made payable to Concern in the sum of €3,000, while Florence was asked to bring a bank draft made payable to Trocaire in the sum of €2,000 – the difference being, said the judge, that ‘Barry was the trespasser and the aggressor.’
When the case was called at the recent sitting, Ray Hennessy said his client declined because he does not believe he is guilty of assault. Similarly, Nancy O’Driscoll said her client doesn’t feel he should be convicted.
Judge McNulty bound both parties to the peace in the sum of €20,000, 10% of which was to be deposited in court.
In relation to the assault charges, the judge said he would ‘defer proceeding to conviction.’
He adjourned the case to the January 12th sitting of Bantry District Court and Ray Hennessy asked for recognisances to be fixed for an appeal.