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Seven months in jail for man who punched his barrister


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Seven months in jail for man who punched his barrister

A 23-year-old man has been sentenced to seven months in prison for punching his barrister in the face during a sitting of Galway District Court.

Sudanese national, Ahmed Adudu, c/o Great Western Hostel, Frenchville Lane, Eyre Square, appeared in custody before last week’s court where he pleaded guilty to assaulting his counsel, causing him harm in the courtroom on April 21.

His new defence counsel, Keith Concannon, told the court that Adudu had mental health difficulties but had responded well while receiving treatment and medication in the Central Mental Hospital in recent months. He said he had been released back into the general prison population last week and was placid now as he was continuing to take his prescribed medication.

Judge Marie Keane, who was presiding on the day of the assault, remanded Adudu in custody. He was already in custody serving other sentences at the time anyway.

Judge Mary Fahy remarked last week that she had heard about the barrister being assaulted in the courtroom and that he needed treatment afterwards.  She noted he did not want to make a statement of complaint in relation to the assault.

Mr Concannon said his client left West Sudan on his own when he was just 15 and ended up in Ireland in 2019.

He said Adudu was “deeply unwell” following his journey and his deteriorating mental health was the driving force behind his violent behaviour.

He said he had been in contact with psychiatrist Dr Benjamin O’Keeffe who provided a comprehensive report for the court, and he felt Adudu was now doing well because he was on medication which had improved him.

“At least he appears very placid at the moment,” counsel observed.

Sergeant Aoife Curley, prosecuting, said Adudu had 15 previous convictions, including one for violent behaviour in a garda station, refusing to give his name and address to gardaí on several occasions, and three for failing to appear in various courts.

Mr Concannon said Adudu was currently serving 13 months in prison which would expire in January.  He asked the judge to be lenient and not add to his client’s sentence.

Reading Dr O’Keeffe’s report, Judge Fahy noted Adudu had a propensity towards violence and there was a threat of violence towards gardai mentioned in the report.

She noted a nurse had been assaulted too but had chosen not to make a formal complaint against Adudu.

Mr Concannon explained there was “a cultural disconnect with figures of authority” and he described his client was being “bounced around” quite a lot on his journey through Africa and all the way to Ireland.

Judge Fahy said Adudu had assaulted the very people who were trying to help him and it was unacceptable that he assault anybody in the legal, medical or any other profession who were only trying to help him and, by so doing, had to be in close proximity to him.

She said the victim in this case was trying to help Adudu, but he had hit out violently when he was in close proximity to him.

Mr Concannon said he asked his client why he assaulted his colleague and he told him he was very unwell at the time.

He claimed he heard voices in his head sometimes which told him to do these things.

“And that would go to explain why he did this because it was so foolish to do it in front or a roomful of people,” Mr Concannon pointed out.

Judge Fahy said that professional people trying to help other people are particularly vulnerable as was the case here.

Mr Concannon again asked her to be lenient and make any sentence she would impose concurrent to the sentence he was currently serving.

“Absolutely not!  It’s too serious an assault in a court of law against a member of the legal profession.  It has to be treated seriously,” the judge said.

Mr Concannon agreed the offence was serious but that prison was not the appropriate venue for someone with mental health difficulties.

The judge said she was obliged to treat this type of offence in a serious manner, before sentencing Adudu to seven months in prison, which is to be served on the termination of the sentence he is currently serving.

Seeking leave to appeal the sentence, Mr Concannon explained his client was an asylum seeker and would not be in a position to provide an independent surety as he was dependent on homeless services.

Judge Fahy granted leave to appeal and certified for counsel under the free legal aid scheme. “It’s well warranted in this case because it’s been a complicated matter,” the judge added.

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