Judge Elizabeth MacGrath of Thurles district court
A Templemore man charged with assaulting a person by coughing on them in a shop in Thurles, had the charge against him dismissed but was told his conduct was “inappropriate” during the early stages of the covid 19 outbreak.
Daniel Connors, of 4 Church Street, Templemore, entered the Supervalu in Friar Street, Thurles, on April 3, 2020, and while he was waiting in the queue before the check out, engaged in conversation with Rory Ryan.
Mr Ryan and his colleague, Kiaran Bent, alleged that Mr Connor was intoxicated. As they made their way to the check out, Mr Connors conversed with Mr Ryan. “He was drunk,” said Mr Ryan. “He did not move back. He began to joke about the virus. He said he had the virus in Holland.” Mr Connors was “making light” of the virus and did not obey social distancing. “I tried to ignore him but he kept brushing up against me. He coughed on me.” Mr Connors kept following Mr Ryan up to the till. “I just wanted to go home,” added Mr Ryan.
The incident was subsequently reported to Thurles gardaí as Mr Ryan said he thought he had been purposefully coughed on by a person carrying the virus. “I was concerned. There was a lot of unknowns about the virus at that time,” said Mr Ryan. “It was just a few weeks after the virus began spreading.”
Garda Karen Barbara charged Mr Connors with assault. Solicitor Patrick Cadell said the CCTV evidence “speaks for itself” in that it did not show Mr Connors coughing on Mr Ryan, and the grounds for a conviction were not met. Judge Elizabeth MacGrath said it was a criminal case that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Mr Ryan “must be given the benefit of the doubt” and the case was dismissed.
However, Judge MacGrath told Mr Cadell that “your client's conduct was totally inappropriate”.
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