Father fined over assault as daughter’s big day descends into chaos

Tuam courthouse.

An estranged father of seven who caused a scene at his daughter’s confirmation has been ordered to pay over €2,000 in fines and expenses after he was convicted at Tuam District Court of assault, breach of the peace and a number of road traffic offences.

Fifty two year old Martin O’Toole of Stripe, Irishtown, who had pleaded not guilty to all charges and summonses, represented himself during the one and a half day hearing.

In the course of the hearing he quoted from the Treaty of Rome and referenced other District Court cases and the Irish Constitution to show his rights had been infringed.

He claimed he had been ‘robbed’ of his children, some of whom he hadn’t seen in six years, and that Gardaí had no right to confiscate his Jeep when stopped at a checkpoint.

He also questioned the jurisdiction of the District Court and under what powers he was being prosecuted.

In summing up, Judge Conal Gibbons told O’Toole he was deluded about his rights and had misinterpreted the law.

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. . . and unfortunately you are operating in a complete misunderstanding and miscomprehension of law. You have a warped view of the law,” he told O’Toole.

Arising out of an incident at the back of St Colman’s Church in Corofin on March 24, 2014 during a confirmation ceremony, O’Toole was charged with assaulting his ex-wife, Mary Teresa O’Toole and her partner, Thomas Fahy of Pollinore, Corofin, and they in turn were charged with assaulting O’Toole.

O’Toole was further charged with being in breach of the peace.

O’Toole told the Court he had not been invited to attend but decided he wanted to share his daughter’s day and give her a card. He admitted he hadn’t seen her in six years and didn’t recognise her until her name was called by the Archbishop.

During the ceremony he left the church to rewrite a card his friend had bought in the shop across the road and on his return his former wife, who he stressed he doesn’t talk to anymore since she left him and took their children in 2009, accosted him.

She told him he wasn’t welcome there and she grabbed him by the neck but he pushed her aside and continued into the church.

At this stage Thomas Fahy grabbed him by the throat and with the help of another man and O’Toole’s son, David, he was successfully ejected.

Mrs. O’Toole denied putting her hands on her ex-husband’s throat but did admit to telling him to go away and not to ruin their daughter’s special day. He then pushed her making her fall to the ground, she told the Court.

Cross examined by O’Toole, who asked if he had ever frightened his children, his ex-wife replied that the reason they left was because of his temper and bad behaviour.

Giving evidence, Fahy admitted to grabbing O’Toole to get him out of the church after he heard shouting and a scuffle at the back of the church.

He saw O’Toole swinging his hand towards Mary Teresa making her fall to the ground. The Court heard O’Toole was shouting that he had a ‘God-given right to see his daughter’ and Fahy said he helped to get him out of the church.

David and Louise O’Toole, both in their twenties, gave evidence to Tuam District Court last month when the case started.

Louise said she saw her father strike her mother and that he tried to hit both her and her brother that day.

David O’Toole said he didn’t want any trouble that day so didn’t speak to his father outside the church before the ceremony. He too heard scuffling at the back of the church and saw someone falling to the ground, but hadn’t realised initially that it was his mother.

When he saw Tom Fahy and his father grappling, he helped Tom get his father, who was shouting and cursing at this stage, outside. David returned to see if his mother was alright.

Sergeant Joseph Cosgrove said, when he got to the church, O’Toole had told him he had been assaulted by his ex-wife and her partner. Mrs O’Toole had been taken to hospital by ambulance.

Photographs were taken of O’Toole’s face which showed an injury to the side of his head near his eye – at the resumed hearing in Tuam this week, O’Toole alleged that injury had been caused by his son David.

O’Toole, in cross-examining the Garda, asked why CCTV footage hadn’t been sought but was told there was none. O’Toole said he didn’t believe that and produced his own photographs of surveillance cameras mounted on the church’s exterior walls.

During the first day’s hearing, O’Toole asked for the case to be struck out on the basis that the State had not proved the case against him and he told Judge Gibbons he took exception to his own children being brought as witnesses against him when there were up to 500 other people present in the packed church that day.

The Court was told that a number of people had been asked but one of them wanted to come to Court.

This week, O’Toole said he wasn’t getting a fair trial as no solicitor he had approached locally would represent him and lawyers from further afield quoted sums of €30,000 that he couldn’t afford. He felt he was at a disadvantage having to defend himself.

Later in direct sworn evidence, O’Toole alleged he had been hit and injured by his son. Antoinette McMahon, defending Mrs O’Toole and Fahy, pointed out that this was the first time this had been alleged in two and a half years.

While being cross-examined by the prosecutor, Inspector Declan Rock, O’Toole said he had gone to the confirmation that day to assure his children that he hadn’t abandoned them.

“I thought I was doing good. On the day, I wasn’t angry but insulted that I was being stopped from seeing my own daughter.

“But I won’t give up and I will continue fighting to get them back,” he vowed.

In a statement made to Gardaí on the day of the confirmation, O’Toole said his wife had left because she was having an affair and brought the children, aged 21, 16, twelve, ten, eight and six with her. He had no contact with her since and didn’t want any either.

He said Fahy was the main instigator of the assault and that he had only defended himself.

O’Toole also faced a number of road traffic offences arising out of an incident at Kilmore, Tuam on September 3, 2015.

Sergeant Stan O’Grady said O’Toole had been seen making a U-turn from a line of cars at an official checkpoint.

On the day, the Jeep he was driving had no certificate of road worthiness, no insurance or tax. O’Toole was not co-operative on the day and had to be physically taken out of the vehicle. He was further charged with being in breach of the peace due to his aggressive behaviour.

O’Toole said the Gardaí had no authority under Section 29 of the Treaty of Rome to take a vehicle that wasn’t theirs and that it and its contents worth €70,000 had never been returned to him.

Sgt O’Grady said a fee of €135 plus €35 for each day the car was impounded would secure him the vehicle but that O’Toole had not done that.

O’Toole, a farmer, was convicted and fined a total of €1,550 plus €600 witnesses’ expenses and given six months to pay.

Fahy was convicted of assault and fined €100. The case against Mrs O’Toole was dismissed. Recognisances were fixed.