BY ALISON O’RIORDAN
A TEENAGE boy was ‘clearly threatening violence’ when he waved a knife outside a house in Cork city where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered, his defence counsel has told the Central Criminal Court.
The judge adjourned the sentencing of Scott O’Connor last Monday after hearing that the accused now accepts that he had ‘minimised’ his behaviour on the night and there was no longer a conflict on the facts in the case.
The court was told during last month’s sentence hearing that the now 19-year-old accused had held a knife high above his head and pointed it at party-goers outside the house party.
Evidence was also given that the accused had pulled up his top, revealing his waistband, when his 14-year-old friend told him: ‘Give it to me, I’ll shank one of them.’
O’Connor also told gardaí that he had earlier picked up the knife from the kitchen floor of the house ‘to scare’ the others at the party but said he had no intention of using it.
Last week, Mr Justice David Keane said he was struggling to reconcile what O’Connor had told his probation officer with what he had witnessed in CCTV footage.
The accused’s defence counsel Ronan Munro SC said his client had indicated to his probation officer that he was not waving around a knife but accepted that it had been produced. In reply, counsel for the State Anne Rowland SC said that the prosecution did not accept that O’Connor’s interviews with gardaí fully reflected his participation in events and he was ‘not being frank’ in relation to certain events, such as where witnesses said he was ‘waving’ the knife.
O’Connor, of Churchfield Square, Churchfield, Cork pleaded guilty last January to committing violent disorder at Bandon Road in Cork on January 16th, 2020. He has also pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely unlawfully to intimidate another person on the same occasion.
Cameron was a native of Ballinascarthy and a second-year chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
He died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16th, 2020 after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party at a house in Cork city. Another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.
Cameron’s parents Kathy and Noel Blair and younger brother Alan were supported in the courtroom by several other extended family members.
At the outset of Monday’s hearing, Mr Munro, representing O’Connor, said that he had examined his own conscience since last week to see if the court could have been assisted more.
The barrister said his client must be sentenced in that he had ‘done more than show a knife’ on the evening of the incident and ‘there was a brandishing’.
The lawyer said his client told him that he struggles to think and talk about the night. ‘He accepts that he was minimising it at the time and now accepts those are the facts and he behaved in that way,’ he noted.
Mr Munro said his client was ‘clearly threatening violence’ on the night. Another party went on to commit another crime, where he said there had been no joint enterprise. Referring to the murder of Cameron, Mr Munro accepted that the court had to have regard to it.
In April 2020, a teenage boy, then aged 17, who murdered Cameron by plunging a knife into his neck, received a life sentence that will be reviewed in 2032.
O’Connor has no previous convictions but he received a formal caution for assault that occurred when he was 14 years of age in October 2017, where he had broken a young male’s nose at an underage disco.
The maximum sentence for violent disorder is 10 years in prison and five years for production of a knife.
Mr Justice Keane said that in light of the submissions the court would adjourn the sentence until July 12th next.
Witness isolating in prison after returning from Ayia Napa
BY ALISON O’RIORDAN
A WITNESS who travelled to Ayia Napa when he was due to give evidence in the trial of a teenager accused of producing a knife at a house party where college student Cameron Blair was murdered, has been arrested and will face trial for contempt of court.
In the high court Mr Justice David Keane heard that Craig O’Donoghue (20) had been served with a witness order in May, which required him to give evidence at the juvenile’s trial last month. However, Mr O’Donoghue travelled to Ayia Napa at the end of May and was not available to give evidence.
It is the State’s belief that the witness and his co-accused left the jurisdiction in order to avoid giving evidence at the trial.
On May 28th, a 16-year-old accused who cannot be named because he is a minor, went on trial charged with the production of a knife at a house on Bandon Road in Cork city on January 16th, 2020. He had been on trial at the Central Criminal Court, which was sitting in Croke Park, for almost three weeks before the case ended last month.
On June 16th, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) discontinued with the charge against the teenager and will enter a nolle prosequi against him in due course, meaning that the State will not be proceeding with the charge of producing a knife against the juvenile.
The accused, who was 14 at the time of the incident, had pleaded not guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person.
During the trial, John Fitzgerald SC for the DPP told Mr Justice Keane that there had been an issue in relation to two of the witnesses in the book of evidence. ‘The information is that they went to Ayia Napa in Cyprus and it is the State’s belief that they did so in order to avoid giving evidence,’ he said.
The court heard that the other witness had already appeared before the High Court.
Mr Fitzgerald called Det Garda Rory McGovern from Togher Garda Station who confirmed that his application was to remand Mr O’Donoghue in custody until July 12th as he will be required to isolate within the prison system for seven days.
‘I anticipate that on July 12th he won’t be able to come to court but can attend court electronically,’ said Mr Fitzgerald.
The judge remanded Mr O’Donoghue in custody until that date.