County council worker acquitted of assault after row in chipper

County council worker acquitted of assault after row in chipper

A county council worker has been acquitted of assault causing harm after he told a trial that he attacked another man because he was frightened for his life.

David Tolan (47) of Pinewood Green Avenue, Balbriggan, north Dublin had pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to John Doherty at Clonard Street, Balbriggan on January 14, 2013.

Mr Doherty was left with 20 stitches to the face and neck after the incident.

Brendan Grehan SC, defending, told the jury, that his client felt himself under great threat and that the law doesn’t require that someone must lie down and accept a beating.

He said the law allowed for a justifiable use of force and he said his client found himself in a situation not of his own making and that at all times he had tried to not engage with the injured party.

Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, said it was the State’s case that the reaction of the accused was not reasonable or justifiable. She put it to the jury that the accused could have retreated or shouted for help but didn’t.

A jury Dublin Circuit Criminal Court deliberated for around 40 minutes before returning a not guilty verdict.

During the three day trial the alleged victim told the jury that he was drunk while out at night. He went into a local chipper and met Mr Tolan.

He said he was messing in the chipper and was throwing things like plastic cutlery around but that he wasn’t behaving violently. 

Mr Tolan had been out earlier that day gritting the roads for Fingal County Council and had gone to the pub for a few pints. He said he was on his way home and only went to the chipper by buy chips for his daughter.

The two men became involved in a verbal exchange over claims that Mr Tolan had bullied him years earlier. The defendant’s evidence was that Mr Doherty was aggressive in the chipper and that there was a threat of violence in the chipper. 

He said Mr Doherty followed him out of the shop and continued to behave aggressively towards him. He said that he was in great fear that he would be attacked by Mr Doherty and said his heart was pounding.

He claimed Mr Doherty said to him, “I’ll kill you, I’ll dance on you” and “I’ll rip the head off you”. Mr Doherty denied ever using these words. 

Mr Doherty admitted that he walked out after Mr Tolan looking for an apology and followed him down a darkened street. He said Mr Tolan stopped and turned around and hit him with what he believed was a Stanley knife.

Mr Tolan said he turned around and whipped off a piece of tin from a nearby fence and used it to attack the complainant.