Man receives 8 years jail term with final 3 years suspended for threat to kill and assault offences

Garda inspector required 24-hour protection following threat to kill him, Clonmel Circuit Court told 

Nationalist Reporter


Nationalist Reporter

Garda inspector required 24-hour protection following threat to kill him, Clonmel Circuit Court told 

A father-of-nine, who issued "sinister" threats to kill two gardai last year and also assaulted one of the officers, received an eight year jail term with the final three years suspended at Clonmel CIrcuit Court. 

Insp John Hunt and his family required 24-hour garda protection for a period of time so serious was the threat Patrick Joseph O'Reilly issued against him at a hotel in Limerick, the court heard. 

And O'Reilly struck Gda. Paul Donoghue in the face ,spat in his face and twice threatened to kill him when the vehicle he was in was stopped in Cahir the same day. 

O'Reilly from Brownswood, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford pleaded guilty to three counts of threatening to kill or cause serious harm and two counts of assaulting Gda. Paul Donoghue on February 3 last year. 

Det. Sgt. Padraig Sutton told the court gardai executed warrants to search two hotel rooms at the Pier Hotel at Sarsfield St. in Limerick City just after 7am on February 3 last year. 

During the operation, Patrick Joseph O'Reilly made some serious threats to the officers present, about John Hunt, a detective inspector serving in Wexford. He told them Insp. Hunt "may take my cars but I will take his life".  O'Reilly identified where Insp. Hunt lived and where he regularly walked his dog.  

Det. Sgt Sutton said the threats were brought to his attention at the end of the operation and he asked his supervisor to investigate them. Drugs were recovered during the search but not from Patrick Joseph O'Reilly's room. 

Defence barrister Aidan Doyle SC said his client's recollection was that he was extremely intoxicated when the search took place. Det. Sgt. Sutton said he couldn't comment on that as the officers who carried out the search didn't make any reference to that. 

Det. Sgt. Sutton pointed out that John Hunt  moved to another  position in the Gardai  as a direct result of the threat made by O'Reilly. 

Meanwhile, Det. Gda. Adrian Cooke outlined that at 3pm on February 3 last year, Gda. Paul Donoghue spoke to the driver of a vehicle stopped at Knockagh, Cahir. Patrick O'Reilly was a rear seat passenger and attempted to get out of the vehicle. 

Gda. Donoghue requested that he remain but he continued to get out of the vehicle. O'Reilly, who was intoxicated, swung with his left hand and struck Gda. Donoghue grazing his face. Shortly after this, he spat at Gda. Donoghue in the face.

 A struggle took place on the busy road as the gardai tried to arrest O'Reilly. When O'Reilly was eventually restrained and handcuffed he turned to Gda. Donoghue and said: "I will put a bullet in your head". 

Det. Gda. Cooke added that when O'Reilly was brought to the custody area at Cahir Garda Station he turned again to Gda. Donoghue and said: "I meant what I said on the side of the road. I will put a bullet in your head." 

The court heard that O'Reilly has 50 previous convictions ranging from discharge of a fire arm, violent disorder, false imprisonment and criminal damage to handling stolen property, burglary and road traffic offences. 

Gda. Donoghue's Victim Impact Statement described how the threat issued by O'Reilly caused him stress in the weeks after. He was constantly checking security at his home and he was concerned for his family at home when he was at work. He said he also had to take precautions to ensure he was not being followed. He was constantly on guard.

Detective Superintendent for the South East region Michael Henneby told the court a Protection Order was issued in response to the threat made to Det.Insp. Hunt. Twenty-hour garda protection was placed at the Inspector's Co. Waterford home involving members of the Garda Armed Support Unit, plain clothes and uniformed gardai until early March last year.  Local garda patrols took over for a number of months after that.  

He said there were cars seized in Co. Wexford as part of a Garda operation, which O'Reilly referred to in his threat. 

Insp. Hunt, in his Victim Impact Statement, said the threat made against him had a profound psychological impact on him though he didn't seek any treatment. When he was informed of the threat by Supt Hennebry, he was very angry and at the same time weary as this was the third time he had to deal with this type of threat in the last few years. He pointed out that he never took sick leave. He had sworn an oath in 1984 to uphold the law and this was what he had done since. He said the threat had an insidious impact on his life and he paid tribute to the gardai who provided security and protection for his family and noted the protection measures were costly on the tax payer.  

He described how he had considered retiring from An Garda Siochana as he couldn't put his family through any more. He was asked to reconsider  and decided to return to uniform duty as an inspector.

Insp. Hunt believed O'Reilly's threat was a calculated act pointing to how the defendant had described his movements. 

Mr Doyle put it to Insp. Hunt that he must have taken comfort from the fact O'Reilly was in custody in Limerick Prison since the date of this incident. Insp. Hunt replied: "Not really to be quite honest".

Defence barrister Aidan Doyle SC said his client wrote letters of apology to Insp. Hunt and Gda. Donoghue and reiterated those apologises to the court. The letters referred to his drink problem.

Mr Doyle said his client undertook to not interfere with the Hunt and Donoghue families in any way and that they had nothing to fear from him. 

His client didn't know Gda. Donoghue at all and had never seen him before this incident. He was intoxicated when the car he was in was stopped at Cahir. His client accepted the threat made to Insp. Hunt was more serious, which was not to belittle the threat made to Gda Donoghue.  It was clear his client  knew Insp. Hunt and knew his circumstances. 

The barrister requested the court to take into account the fact his client was in custody since committing these offences. The threat felt by Insp. Hunt would have been more significant had he been on bail or not apprehended, he argued.  

Mr Doyle presented a letter from Limerick Prison's Prison Governor outlining that O'Reilly was behaving, sober and engaging with the prison's educational services. 

"Diabolical anger management goes to the root of his re-offending," Mr Doyle pointed out. "He completely lost his temper and lost his mouth so to speak. He is a regular attender of an anger managment course in prison and is also attending alcohol dependency treatment. It appears alcohol is a significant factor in his offending," he added. 

Judge Tom Teehan said Patrick Joseph O'Reilly made very significant and sinister threats in relation to two gardai, one of whom he knew and had presumably encountered during his criminal career.  

He said the impact of these threats on the injured parties was profound. In almost 50 years involvement in the courts, he hadn't come across a more dedicated police officer as Insp. Hunt. 

"He has always impressed me with the thoroughness of his work, with how seriously he takes the job. That is reflected in the very impressive Victim Impact Statement presented to the court today. 

"Most people who get involved in crime fully accept the fact  gardai are doing their job and there is nothing personal involved when they are approached and brought to justice by members of the Gardai. 

"This is unfortunately an exception to that rule. The courts have to have regard to matters such as punishment and rehabilitation but also with the question of deterrence. This seems to me to be a case where that is a particularly important concept for the reasons I have just given."

He knew Insp. Hunt to be an extremely dedicated father and even the most robust of policemen could not but be affected by the threats made to him and concerning his family. He required, at very great expense to the State, 24 hour garda protection for some time and very significant protection for some months after. 

The Judge noted the effect on Gda. Donoghue was also profound. He not only felt under threat but felt his wife and family to be threatened by a man who was before many circuit and district courts over his career and who was convicted of very significant offences. 

"This factor would have weighed heavily with Insp. Hunt and Gda. Donoghue when considering the threat made against them and their families so it's difficult to overstate the seriousness of the charges." 

Referring to O'Reilly's alcohol abuse problem, Judge Teehan noted that O'Reilly wasn't so drunk that he couldn't utter coherent threats when stopped in Cahir  though he welcomed the steps O'Reilly has taken in prison to deal with his alcohol abuse and anger. 

Taking into account, O'Reilly's guilty plea, his apologies to both gardai and the undertaking he gave to the court, he suspended the last three years of the eight years prison term on condition the defendant entered into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, refrain from alcohol consumption and engage with addiction services for three years after his release. 

And he warned O'Reilly: "Don't come back before me again" before turning to Insp. Hunt and declaring that he was delighted he had changed his mind about retiring. "Had you gone ahead and left the force, evil deeds would have won out. Doing what you did heartened me and I wish you and your family well in the future and pass on my very best wishes to Gda. Donoghue." 

O'Reilly apologised profusely for his behaviour after the sentencing and he was  hugged by family members before being taken out of the courtroom.