AN Achill hackney driver was found guilty of ‘technical assault’ on a female passenger but escaped a conviction after agreeing to donate €1,000 to two charities.
William (Billy) O’Riordan of Bunnacurry was found guilty by Judge Mary Devins of the charge of assaulting Catherine Johnstone at Bunnacurry on January 1, 2012, after he was accused of grabbing her by her coat lapels and kneeing her in the thigh.
Mr O’Riordan had denied the charge and when evidence was heard last November, he claimed that Ms Johnstone was ‘abusive towards me’ and was ‘trying to cause hassle’.
In giving her verdict at last week’s sitting of Achill District Court, Judge Mary Devins said that as a holder of a PSV licence, Mr O’Riordan had the responsibility and ‘duty of care’ to the public who travelled in his vehicle.
She commented that while passengers at the end of a New Year’s Eve night can be ‘drunk, obstreperous, often rude and aggressive’, this should not distract him from his responsibilities.
At the previous sitting, Mr O’Riordan had commented that he had given up cigarettes on the night of the incident and Judge Devins added that it was a ‘bad night to go through withdrawal symptoms for nicotine’.
Judge Devins said she was satisfied there was an altercation between Mr O’Riordan and Ms Johnstone, and that he was ‘guilty of technical assault’ on Ms Johnstone beyond all reasonable doubt.
Mr Dermot Morahan, solicitor for Mr O’Riordan said that the experience had been embarrassing for him and it had taken its toll over the Christmas. He said he had no previous convictions and asked the judge to be lenient in sentencing.
When asked by Judge Devins if he was still the holder of a PSV licence, Mr Morahan said there were question marks regarding it and agreed an assault conviction would affect him if he wants to reapply.
Mr O’Riordan told the court he was sorry if he offended anyone and Sergeant Gerald McNally agreed that there was never a complaint made against him before.
Judge Devins said that while she found there was a technical assault she felt there were certain mitigating circumstances. She said she would apply the Probation Act if Mr O’Riordan agreed to donate €500 each to the National Carers’ Association and the Achill Lifeboat.