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Connacht Tribune

Man jailed for using coercive behaviour to control family

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A man whose young children fear for their mother’s safety once he is released from custody, has been sentenced to three years in prison for using coercion to control his family.

Imposing the sentence at Galway Circuit Criminal Court this week, Judge Rory McCabe concurred with the findings of psychiatric and probation reports handed into court, that 49-year-old Paul Harkin posed a high risk of reoffending and of committing violence against his partner.

Harkin, a native of Derry who formerly lived with his wife and two children near Kilchreest, Loughrea, pleaded guilty before the court last January to knowingly and persistently engaging in behaviour that was controlling or coercive on a date unknown between June 24 and August 13 last year at an unknown location, which had a serious effect on a woman who is or was his spouse, and the behaviour was such that a reasonable person would consider it likely to have a serious effect on a relevant person, contrary to Section 39 (1) and (3) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2018.

Judge McCabe heard evidence at Harkin’s sentence hearing last week but adjourned finalisation of sentence until this week to consider the findings of comprehensive psychiatric and probation reports.

The court heard Harkin believed in several conspiracy theories and his coercive control of his wife and two young children, then aged nine and seven, escalated on the run-up to the children’s impending return to school last September as he feared they would be vaccinated against Covid 19, which he believed was a hoax.

He made veiled threats to his now former wife, Fiona Clarke, that he would burn their house down, and the homes of her extended family without warning, resulting in the loss of twelve lives, if she did not behave and do as she was told.

The court heard Ms Clarke went out to work while her husband stayed at home. He got her to withdraw money from her account on a regular basis and give it to him. He spent most days watching conspiracy videos on his phone and drinking beer, the court heard.

In her victim impact statement, which Ms Clarke read to the court, she said she lived in fear for the future when Harkin got out of prison.

“I went against Paul by speaking out and I am now terrified of the consequences. I don’t know if he will want revenge,” she said.

Detective Sergeant Paul Duane told the court that he arrested Harkin on September 2 last year.

He confirmed Harkin had previous convictions from Northern Ireland in 1998 for threatening to kill a former partner there, for two aggravated burglaries and causing criminal damage for which he had received a two-year suspended sentence.

Judge Rory McCabe said Harkin’s 1998 convictions showed he had ‘form’.

The judge placed the headline sentence at four-and-a-half years which he said, reflected the gravity of the offence, which carries a maximum tariff of five years.

Taking the early plea, Harkin’s expression of remorse, and his intention to leave the jurisdiction and go back to live in Derry as mitigating factors, Judge McCabe said the sentence he had in mind was three years.

However, he decided not to finalise the structure of that sentence until this week, stating this was a complex matter and he needed more time to consider the reports before the court.

Judge McCabe said an immediate custodial sentence was unavoidable and warranted when passing sentence this week.

The judge said he believed Harkin would make no effort to rehabilitate and it was his belief he would pose an ongoing risk of reoffending.

Imposing the three-year sentence, the judge directed Harkin to have no contact with the victims and come under the supervision of the probation service for twelve months on his release from prison.

Connacht Tribune

Paedophile for sentencing after arrest in Ceannt Station

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A man will be sentenced in December for arranging to meet a child at Ceannt Station for the purpose of sexual assault.

In the meantime, Michael Sheridan, from Cormeelick South, Milltown, must not attempt to use the internet or any other means of communication to contact any child, as set down in conditions attached to his bail.

The 63-year-old pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday week to attempting to communicate with a child by means of information and communication technology within the State, for the purposes of facilitating the sexual exploitation of the child on dates between March 20 and May 26, 2018, contrary to Common Law and Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.

He also pleaded guilty to attempting to meet the child on May 27, 2018, at Ceannt Railway Station in Eyre Square, having communicated by any means with the child, and did so on at least a previous occasion, and did so for the purpose of doing something that would constitute the sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault of the child, contrary to Common Law.  The sex of the child referred to in the charges was not revealed in court.

In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke said there was no need to order a victim impact statement prior to sentence taking place as there was no victim ‘in the real sense’ in the case.

By consent with Bernard Madden SC, defending, sentence was adjourned to December 15 next, when the prosecution will outline the facts in the case against Sheridan.

His free legal aid certificate was extended to cover the cost of a medical report for mitigation purposes.

Judge McCabe also directed the preparation of a probation report at Mr Madden’s request and remanded Sheridan on continuing bail with the existing conditions attached to appear back before the court in December for sentence.

Bail was initially granted in the District Court on condition Sheridan surrender his passport and not apply for a new one or any other travel documents; sign on twice a week at Tuam Garda Station; provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to Gardaí at all times; undertake to the court not to make any contact with any child by any means, to include social media; and not to access the internet at any stage pending completion of the case.

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Connacht Tribune

Final outing for Your County, Your Colours – to honour an old colleague

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It was a simple idea well executed – to deliver 32 GAA county jerseys to frontline workers in a hospital or care home in thanks for their dedication during Covid – but before the dust settled on Your County, Your Colours, there was one final and very special delivery to be made.

It is now nine years since a completely unprovoked attack left Tuam man Shane Grogan with life-changing injuries that mean he still requires round-the-clock medical care today.

Before that vicious assault, Shane was a popular member of staff with Merit Medical – who just happened to be the sponsors of the Your County, Your Colours project, dreamt up by Galway Bay FM commentator and former Galway footballer, Tommy Devane.

The team at Merit had one final request – to deliver a special, framed Galway jersey to Shane and the staff at Greenpark Nursing Home, where Shane has lived for some time.

Karen Smyth, Communications Leader with Merit Medical, said that the staff at Merit Medical had never forgotten Shane.

“We see Your County, Your Colours as a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of the frontline workers in Greenpark,” she said.

“This is just a small token of appreciation of their efforts; they do an amazing job – not just during the pandemic but every day,” she added.

Shane’s dad Joe relayed his thanks to Merit Medical for this presentation – with a special word to the Accounts Department, where Shane worked prior to his accident.

“They have always kept Shane foremost in their thoughts and hopefully, the visits will start again soon!” he said.

The original idea, as envisaged by Tommy Devane, was to honour the tireless efforts of frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.

So he has asked all 32 counties to supply one county jersey accompanied by a short message of thanks. The jersey along with their message was then framed and sent to the hospital or care setting of the county’s choice.

Greenpark Nursing Home Director of Nursing Brian McNamara thanked Merit Medical and Tommy Devane for what he called this wonderful gift.

“We are honoured to have been thought of in this manner and it is our privilege to look after Merit’s colleague Shane Grogan,” he said.

“In our caring for Shane, there will always be a special bond between Merit Medical and Greenpark Nursing Home,” he added.

(Photo: Shane Grogan (centre) with his parents Joe and Joan behind him, accepting his signed Galway jersey, joined by (from left) the McNamara family – Jane, Cora, Director of Nursing Brian and Ian – of Greenpark Nursing Home; Shane’s physical therapist Johnathan Gibson, Merit Medical’s Karen Smyth and Mark Butler, and Tommy Devane, organiser of Your County, Your Colours).

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Connacht Tribune

Teacher has sights set on passing ultimate Ironman test

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It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and it pretty much eats up all of your spare time – but for Claregalway schoolteacher, Rachel Farrell, the Ironman 70.3 world championship test in September is something she just cannot wait for.

Rachel (28) has always been bitten by the sports and fitness bug, being a competitive swimmer and badminton player from her school days, but now she is concentrating on what’s called the Ironman 70.3.

The 70.3 part of the title refers to the total distance in miles that competitors will cover between the swim, cycle and running legs of the event.

It works out at half the distance of the full Ironman Triathlon but that still adds up to one huge challenge for those brave enough to take it on.

The first part of the endurance test is a 1.9-kilometre (1.2 miles) swim followed by a 90km cycle (56 miles) and then a half-marathon run (21.1km or 13.1 miles).

“I did my first Ironman 70.3 in France in 2019 and the Utah event on September 17 next is actually the 2020 world championships which couldn’t be held last year because of the Covid situation.

“The course in Utah is by all accounts a pretty gruelling one and the conditions there will be tough too, but I’ve prepared well for it and am looking forward to the challenge,” said Rachel.

She will be competing in the 25 to 29 age category and in the France event two years ago, Rachel notched a top 49 finish – the target this time around is for a top-20 finishing slot.

The daughter of Josette and Hugh Farrell, Rachel is currently a secondary schoolteacher in Dubai who is hoping to travel to Utah about a week before the event to help her acclimatise to the heat and desert like conditions of the US state.

Even the journey to get there will be a mission itself with Dubai the starting off point followed by stop-offs at Elay and Las Vegas.

Rachel is pretty much committed to an all-year round preparation programme based on a four-week rota system – three weeks of intense training followed by one week of scaled down activity.

“When I was in Oman back in 2018 and the event was held there it just caught my interest. I put in on my bucket list and really enjoyed the one in France in 2019.

“I’m not sure whether I’ll keep doing them or not – I might just concentrate on swimming or cycling events into the future – but for the moment, Utah is the goal and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Rachel.

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