A man who had his nose slashed on the street in Ballinrobe succeeded in getting a conviction against his attacker last week – despite the defendant not showing up in court.
Kenneth Ward of 61 Church View, Ballinrobe, did not appear in Westport District Court last week to defend a charge of assault causing harm to Martin Gus Sweeney on May 1 last year on Abbey Street. His brother Shane, who the victim alleged was also present when the attack took place, was put on the stand in court having been brought from prison for the hearing. However, he refused to acknowledge he ever made a statement on the incident, despite being shown the original hand-written statement- signed by himself – by Inspector Joe McKenna.
The court heard that Gardaí responded to a call of a knife attack at Friarsquarter Ballinrobe at 7.45pm on May 1 last year, and arrived there within one minute. They saw Martin Gus Sweeney with a lot of blood over his face. He was agitated, refused to speak to Gardaí , didn’t want an ambulance and said he would ‘sort it out himself’. He was brought to hospital but left without receiving any medical attention.
Martin Gus Sweeney told the court that on May 18 he decided it wouldn’t do him any favours to take the matter into his own hands so he decided to make a statement. He said that on the evening of the attack he and another man were walking back from Tesco when he was called over by a three-man group – which included Kenneth and Shane Ward. He said Kenneth Ward asked him ‘what happened between their brothers last night?’ to which he replied ‘is it about the dog again?’ He then alleged that a few years ago Kenneth Ward took his brother’s dog from his back yard and killed him.
“Next thing he swiped me and I was helped across the road (by his companion and the other man who was with the Ward brothers) and there was blood everywhere,” he recalled in court. He added that he knows Kenneth Ward for 20 years, is related to him, and is certain he was his assailant. He has not encountered him since.
Under cross examination by defence solicitor Cathy McDarby, Martin Gus Sweeney admitted he was intoxicated on the night and said he was coming from Tesco after buying more drink. He said he never went to a doctor at all with his injury and that it had healed up okay. He has a scar.
Garda John Doherty added that he had executed an outstanding bench warrant on Kenneth Ward on June 14 2011 and had subsequently taken Kenneth Ward from Castlerea prison and interviewed him about the incident. He denied it, or even being in Ballinrobe that day. He provided an alibi in Thurles, but this did not confirm or deny that Kenneth was in Tipperary on the day of the assault, when they were contacted by Gardaí.
Judge Devins said she found the evidence of Martin Gus Sweeney to be clear, concise, factual, devoid of any additions and consistent with the evidence of the Garda who was first on the scene. She said there was sufficient evidence to convict Kenneth Ward of assault causing harm and did so.
The court was informed that the defendant has 37 previous convictions – 16 for public order, three for assault, ten for theft and burglary, four for criminal damage and four for possession of knives or other offensive weapons. He was sentenced to three years in prison in October 2011 – but this was suspended for five years on strict conditions.
Judge Devins explained that having recorded a conviction against Kenneth Ward during a period in which he has a suspended sentence active, the defendant must be sent back to the judge who imposed the earlier suspended sentence.
She issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Kenneth Ward, and said that if found he is to be remanded in custody until the next circuit court sitting, provided there is not an unreasonable amount of time between his arrest and that court sitting.