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19 Aug 2022

Suspended sentence for 80-year-old Tipp man who put fish through his neighbour's letter box

A man who harassed his neighbour for a number of years has been given two suspended jail sentences by Nenagh District Court.

John O’Connell, who is aged 80, of St John’s Terrace, Summerhill, Nenagh, pleaded to harassment on dates between September 26, 2013 and October 23, 2020.

He also pleaded to producing an offensive weapon - an axe - on September 26, 2020.

Mr O’Connell had been dealt with at an earlier court which heard that he had harassed his female neighbour by singing the words: “Why do they call you a B****” at her and by putting a fish through her letter box on one occasion.

He had also spat at her and coughed and sneezed in her direction.

The court heard that Mr O’Connell’s action had amounted to verbal and psychological abuse.

The case had been adjourned on February 24 to last Friday for a victim personal statement.

The injured party said in her statement, which was read out to the court, that she had suffered constant harassment for seven years since Mr O’Connell moved in beside her.

He had also made anti-social behaviour complaints against her to Tipperary County Council, claiming that she had been holding parties at her home, which, she said, was not true.

Mr O’Connell had also claimed people were getting into his house through his neighbour’s attic.

The injured party had to listen to him shouting at her from next door; she had the walls of her home replastered in an effort to keep out the noise.

Mr O’Connell had even called to her place of work to harass her in front of her colleagues, she said.

She described Mr O’Connell’s actions as a “constant barrage of harassment and torment”.

She told the court that Mr O’Connell had continued to be abusive to her in the street and even on the morning of the court, he had been laughing and sniggering at her.

Mr O’Connell’s solicitor, Pat Liston, said his client had lived in the UK for years but now lived alone in Nenagh as he had no direct family in the area.

Mr Liston submitted medical reports which suggested Mr O’Connell appeared to be suffering from “paranoid delusions”, which would explain his behaviour.

However, Judge Elizabeth MacGrath pointed out that Mr O’Connell had not been diagnosed with any condition that prevented him from being dealt with by the court.

The judge said that his behaviour was confined solely to the injured party, and that a custodial sentence would be the only way of bringing this behaviour to a stop.

Mr O’Connell told the court that he regretted what had happened over the years, and gave an undertaking to leave his neighbour in peace.

“You’ve made your neighbour’s life a misery,” Judge MacGrath told him. “The court has to be satisfied that it stops now.”

Judge MacGrath sentenced Mr O’Connell to six months in prison, suspended for two years on his own bond of €500, and with conditions that he was not to interfere with his neighbour’s access to a laneway at the rear of their properties, or harass her in any form, including words, actions or gestures.

On the offensive weapon charge, Mr O’Connell was sentenced to four months, suspended on the same conditions.

The sentences are to run concurrently.

Recognizance were fixed in Mr O’Connell’s own bond of €500, and an independent surety of €1,000 of which €500 was to be in cash.

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