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CITY TRIBUNE

Teen mugger who slashed student’s throat let out on bail

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Galway City Tribune – A teenage mugger and gang member who slashed a student across the throat with a knife, thanked a Circuit Court Judge for allowing him out on bail for Christmas.

The 16-year-old – who cannot be named due to his age – was part of a gang of youths who targeted students in a spate of muggings near student accommodation in the city last year.

The three, who are aged between 15 and 17, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court earlier this year to carrying out five separate robberies on September 3, 2017. Sentence had been adjourned for the preparation of reports.

All three pleaded guilty to robbing a girl of her iPhone 5s and €50 cash at Castlelawn Heights, Headford Road and to robbing her female friend of €22 cash during the same incident.

They also pleaded guilty to robbing another young girl of her iPhone 6s and €30 cash at Dun na Coiribe, Headford Road and to robbing two young men of a Sony Xperia phone worth €520, an iPhone 6s, a Hugo Boss watch and a wallet, in separate muggings at Gort na Coiribe, also on the same date.

The 16-year-old, who had the knife, further pleaded guilty to additional charges of producing a knife and causing injury to the throat of one of the victims at Gort na Coiribe.

He also pleaded guilty to assaulting the same victim, causing him harm, on the same night.

He further pleaded guilty to robbing another teen of €80 outside B&Q on August 17 last year while armed with a knife. The victim, who knew the youth, had turned up with the cash to buy a bicycle, but instead, the accused pulled a knife and threatened the victim to hand over the money.

He appeared in custody before the court having breached terms of his bail set earlier this year.

Sergeant Karen Higgins told the initial sentence hearing last month that the first incident occurred at the entrance to Castlelawn Heights when two young women, returning home after a night out, were confronted by three males.

They were wearing hoodies and shouted at the girls to hand over their cash and phones. One of the victims saw one mugger holding a knife.

He shouted at her: “If you saw my face, I will kill you”. They searched the girls’ handbags and stole their phones and cash before all three ran away.

Gardai were responding to that robbery when they received news of a second robbery in progress nearby at Gort an Coiribe.

They were told an ambulance was on its way to that location.

While on their way to that robbery, Sgt Higgins said she and Sgt

Noel Sweeney, came upon three youths surrounding a woman.  They matched the description given by the two girls from the first robbery.

As the Gardai approached the group, a girl ran out onto the road, shouting: “Help!  I’m being robbed.”

This girl was a German student. The muggers fled in different directions but the Gardai managed to catch two of them. A struggle ensued between Garda Sweeney and one of the muggers. He was found to have a large kitchen knife concealed widthways across his lower back inside his tracksuit bottom.

The third male was found hiding in bushes nearby.

The traumatised German student said the muggers surrounded her and the one with the knife demanded she hand over her valuables.

Sgt Higgins said that moments before the German girl was robbed, the gang had surrounded two male students on their way home after a night out.

The knife was used to slash one student’s throat when he at first refused to hand over his belongings.

Victim impact statements from all of the students were read into evidence by Sgt Higgins.

The first female victim, who is from the US, said she hoped the judge would take this case seriously as there were more and more cases like it being reported every week in the local press.

She said one of the muggers told her he would smash her face in if she said anything and he would kill her if she reported him to Gardai.

She said she has felt extremely unsafe in Galway since the incident “I have been harassed by gangs of teenage boys twice since this incident happened,” she told Gardai.

She went for counselling and self defence classes and now carries pepper spray in case of further attacks.

The student, who saw his friend’s throat being slashed with the knife said in his statement: “I’m still in shock when I think that a person could swing a knife in such an unprovoked way.”

He said that one of the reasons he chose to go to college in Galway was because he had always felt safe here.

“Without any provocation, this group surrounded us and demanded our belongings. Having worked hard for them, I refused to hand over my belongings and one of them produced a knife and held it against my neck.

“I could feel the cold blade on my skin. I have never felt such intimidation or fear in my life. When they had taken all my things, they turned on my friend.

“They slashed his throat and I saw blood. I could see he (armed mugger) had no regard for our lives; the way he slashed out.

“They threatened us not to contact the Gardai. I never feel safe in Galway anymore,” the young man said.

He said he had feared for his own life and his friend’s life.

“I saw the best and worst of human nature that night. I want to thank the Gardai, the A&E staff and the sensitive way in which they let our parents know what had happened to us.”

Sgt Higgins said the stab victim received a 10-12cm wound across the front of his neck which left a permanent scar.

Both students worked night shifts to put themselves through college.

She said the youth who had been armed with the knife that night was now aged 17 and was known to Gardai before this. The other two muggers are 16.

Mr Conal McCarthy BL, who represented the knife-wielding youth, said his client had consumed two bottles of wine earlier and he had made full admissions during Garda interview. He said the youth was intelligent and a great musician with a promising online rapper career.

Mr Michael Clancy BL, who represented the second mugger, said his client wished to apologise to the victims.

A probation report handed into court confirmed his client’s remorse was genuine and he had been the least aggressive of the gang.

Mr John Hogan BL, who represented the youngest mugger, said his client had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. He said all three were highly intoxicated and his client was 15 at the time.

Judge Rory McCabe dealt with the two unarmed muggers first.  He imposed three years’ detention on both of them for each of the robberies to run concurrently, but deferred the detention orders from coming into effect for 12 months on condition both come under the supervision of the probation service during that time and obey all of their directions.

In the case of the knife-wielding mugger, the Judge noted he had tested positive for cannabis while in custody at Oberstown Detention Centre for young offenders, and he had casually told probation officers he was still smoking cannabis regularly.

Mr McCarthy conceded his client had been taking drugs.

“And while he says he had a difficult life thus far, it doesn’t give him licence to go around Galway with a knife, trying to rob people,” the barrister added.

However, the balance of justice lay, he said, in not imposing a custodial sentence and he asked Judge McCabe to allow his client out on bail for three months to see if he would engage with the probation service.

Weighing up the recommendations of various reports before him, the judge agreed to allow the youth out on bail for three months on condition he engage fully with the probation service during that time.

He directed an up to date probation report be furnished to the court on March 20 next, when finalisation of sentence will take place.

“I do not know how I will deal with this at the end of the day but if he drops as much as a piece of paper on the ground, he will be brought back in to court,” the judge warned.

“Thanks, your honour,” the youth said, before leaving the courtroom to join a group of cheering youths who had been waiting for him inside the courthouse all day.

CITY TRIBUNE

Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service

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The Blood Bike team and supporters with the charity’ s newest motorbike, Cara, during the fundraising day at the Galway Plaza. Pictured are (from left) John Moylan, Bridie Lyons (Fundraising Manager), Sean Griffin, Fergus Turner, James Treacy, Pat McDonagh, Dave O'Leary (Chairperson), Ronan Kane (Fleet Manager), and Sergio Massidda.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.

Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.

The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.

As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.

Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow:  collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.

In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.

As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.

Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Park fun to mark Africa Day

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Pam Mncube-Zoki of Africa United Galway, speaking at the National Integration Conference at NUI Galway last week. The group are co-organisers of Africa Day which takes place in Salthill Park on May 28. Photo:xposure

On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.

Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.

Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.

Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.

Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.

In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.

Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.

The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.

Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’

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At the launch of the Domestic Violence Response (DVR) Annual Report were Rachel Doyle and Elizabeth Power of DVR, Deputy Catherine Connolly and Anne Reynolds. Photos Sean Lydon

BY TIFFANY GREENWALDT-SIMON

A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.

Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.

The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.

The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.

Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.

“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.

“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.

“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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