Assault appeal | 

Jackie Healy-Rae held English tourist’s arm behind back while friends ‘punched face in’, court told

Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae is challenging his conviction for the 2017 assault in Kenmare, while his brother Kevin and their friend Malachy Scannell have dropped their appeals

Kerry councillor Jackie Healy-Rae. Photo by Don MacMonagle

Kevin Healy-Rae (left) and Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae at Kenmare District Court. File photo


An English holidaymaker insisted that Kerry councillor Jackie Healy-Rae (26) first put him in a headlock until he was choking and then held his arm behind his back while his two friends started "punching my face in".

Kieran James insisted he was assaulted, as Councillor Healy-Rae, the son of independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae, appealed against his conviction for an assault in Kenmare five years ago.

Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae has challenged his conviction for assault causing harm to Mr James before Tralee Circuit Appeals Court.

His appeal - which will take two days - opened in Tralee on Tuesday.

His counsel, John Berry BL, said his client was vehemently challenging the conviction.

Mr Berry noted that two other individuals had withdrawn appeals over the matter.

"I am not suggesting for one moment that you were not the victim of a criminal assault in Kenmare," Mr Berry told Mr James.

But the barrister said it was his client's position that he had only tried to act as a peacemaker and to restrain others that evening.

Kevin Healy-Rae (25), a younger son of the independent Kerry TD, withdrew his appeal against the assault conviction before Judge Francis Comerford.

Kevin Healy-Rae (left) and Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae at Kenmare District Court. File photo

Kevin Healy-Rae had his seven-month suspended sentence affirmed by the court.

A friend of the brothers, Malachy Scannell (36), also withdrew his appeal to an assault causing harm conviction.

He also had his six-month suspended sentence affirmed by Judge Comerford.

The judge adjourned the matters as he said he felt bonds were appropriate given the suspensions involved.

Councillor Healy-Rae Jnr, Kevin Healy-Rae (25) and Malachy Scannell were convicted three years ago of assaulting a British tourist over a queue-jumping incident at a Kenmare chip van on December 28 2017.

Both had confirmed appeals, via their solicitor Padraig O'Connell, within hours of their convictions.

Kerry Circuit Appeals Court had listed the cases in 2020 but, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and disruption to court lists, the cases have been delayed until now.

Mr James, an English-based holidaymaker who has an Irish passport, outlined to Judge Comerford yesterday the incidents of December 28, 2017.

The young man had travelled to Kerry at Christmas 2017 to introduce his wife-to-be, Lauren, to his Irish relatives.

Mr James said, after socialising in a Kenmare pub, he went with his fiancée and four Kerry cousins to get food at a local chip van.

After queuing, they had placed their food order when a young man - Kevin Healy-Rae - barged through and jumped the queue.

Mr James' partner, Lauren, objected to the man jumping the queue - with Kevin Healy-Rae then turning on Mr James.

"He said: 'this is my town and this is my chip van.' He was very agitated by my wife pointing out that he had just jumped the queue."

He said Kevin Healy-Rae, who he did not know at the time, left the scene but quickly returned with two other men, his older brother Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae and Malachy Scannell.

Mr James said he was pushed by Kevin Healy-Rae and immediately pushed him back.

Suddenly, he said he was grabbed from behind by Jackie Healy-Rae and placed in a firm headlock.

"Jackie grabbed me around the neck - in a kind of headlock," Mr James said.

"It lasted for 20 or 30 seconds. I was struggling to breathe. It wasn't a light hold."

Mr James said he was finally released from the headlock when his partner shouted that he couldn't breathe.

He said their group was so shocked by the incident they immediately decided to leave - even leaving the food they had paid for behind them.

Mr James said as they walked up Main Street in Kenmare, he heard aggressive shouting and realised that three men were running up the road to confront them.

He said he was grabbed again by Jackie Healy-Rae who held his arm behind his back while he was repeatedly punched by the other two men.

"He was forcing my arm behind my back and the other two were punching my face in," he said.

"I was not really able to defend myself."

Mr James said his partner - whom he married in 2018 - had bravely tried to protect him by screaming at the assailants to stop and then trying to position herself between them and himself.

He said the incident only ended when Lauren suddenly shouted that the gardaí were coming - and the three men left the scene.

Mr James told the court was injured in the incident and had to receive medical attention both in Ireland and in England.

He said he suffered a broken nose which he had to undergo two operations to repair, a damaged shoulder, a broken tooth and a scar over his nose.

"All these injuries were sustained in the second attack up on Main Street," Mr James said.

The witness rejected suggestions by Mr Berry that Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae had only tried to act as a peacemaker that night and was trying to end the confrontation which had commenced at the chip van.

"There is restraining and there is assaulting. I was assaulted by Jackie Healy-Rae."

Lauren James said she feared for her husband's safety that evening.

She said that when she spotted her husband being held in a headlock by the chip van, his face was "bright red".

"Kieran was very still - he was not fighting it. His face was bright red. I was very concerned (for him). There was a vein popping on his head. I said you are going to kill him."

After Mr James was released and her group attempted to leave the scene, she said her husband was then attacked by three men on Main Street.

"Obviously that was very shocking," she said.

"They were all attacking Kieran… they were punching his body. Kieran's face was unrecognisable. There were large patches of swelling and bruising. His nose was pushed to the side. You could see it was broken."

"He looked disfigured."

Mrs James said she stood in front of her husband and desperately tried to protect him because he was so dazed.

"My concern was to try to prevent Kieran from suffering any more physical assaults,” she said.

But she said two of the assailants that confronted her were very aggressive .

"It was a totally unprovoked attack on him," she said.

She rejected suggestions that any of those who confronted her husband were acting with restraint either at the chip van or on the Main Street.

During the 2019 district court case, it emerged Kevin Healy-Rae had insisted to investigating gardaí that the incident was politically motivated and that there are people all over Ireland who hate his family.

Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae Jnr, Kevin Healy-Rae and their friend Scannell had vehemently denied a number of assault charges before Kenmare District Court in 2019.

However, they were convicted on all charges by Judge Dave Waters after extensive witness evidence was heard and CCTV security camera footage was viewed from around Kenmare town centre.

Councillor Jackie Healy-Rae was handed a suspended eight-month prison sentence and is now appealing against both his conviction and sentence.

His brother, Kevin Healy-Rae, received a suspended seven-month prison sentence.

Their friend, Malachy Scannell, was handed a suspended six-month prison sentence.

Both brothers have an address at Sandymount in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry.

Mr Scannell of Inchinacoosh, Kilgarvan, Co Kerry is a close friend of the brothers.

The appeal continues on Wednesday.

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