A time to chill | 

Judge hears case on steps of courthouse after accused men exhibit Covid symptoms

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan transferred proceedings from his courtroom to the car park steps
Ennis Circuit Court

Ennis Circuit Court

Ennis Courthouse

Ennis Courthouse

Gordon Deegan

A circuit court judge today conducted court proceedings outside on the steps of a courthouse after hearing two accused men in a case were exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms.

At Ennis Circuit Court, Judge Brian O’Callaghan transferred court proceedings from his courtroom to the steps of Ennis Courthouse and its car park due to what he called “the Covid-19 circumstances in the case”.

Shortly after 12.30pm today, Judge O’Callaghan convened the court from the top of the courthouse steps for the arraignment of five men charged in respect of a violent disturbance at a charity kick-boxing event at a Shannon hotel three years ago.

Video footage of the brawl at the Saturday night event was posted on social media soon after.

At the bottom of the steps standing in the courthouse car park, five men - all wearing masks - each replied “guilty” when arraigned by the court registrar for the offences.

At the top of the steps stood Judge Brian O’Callaghan who was accompanied by two court registrars.

On the steps, counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly BL told Judge O’Callaghan that the pleas of guilt were acceptable to the DPP.

Also present for the outside court sitting was solicitor for the five, Daragh Hassett, and barristers for the defendants.

After each accused had replied "guilty”, Judge O’Callaghan remanded all five on continuing bail to appear before Ennis Circuit Court on February 16 for sentence.

A number of the men said "thank you Judge”. Judge O’Callaghan told all five “stay safe”.

Earlier in court, Mr Hassett told Judge O’Callaghan that two of his clients were exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms and had a test arranged for the afternoon while the other three were potential close contacts as all live close to one another.

Mr Hassett said that all the defendants were most anxious to enter their plea of guilty today and were present in the car park all sitting in the one vehicle.

Mr Hassett suggested they could still be arraigned today if that was physically possible and he agreed with counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly BL, that this could be safely done in the car park.

Judge O’Callaghan said that it was not appropriate due to the Covid-19 circumstances that the five accused men come into the court building.

After hearing submissions, he said that the proceedings would be heard outside the courthouse building without the assistance of the court’s Digital Audio Recording (DAR).

When all parties comprising of the judge, two court registrars and State and defence legal teams returned to the court, Judge O’Callaghan said that the formal guilty pleas could be entered into the record for the DAR.

In the case, Thomas McDonagh (20) of Ballymurtagh Cross, Shannon, Bernard McDonagh (28) of St Helen’s Park, Ballymurtagh, Shannon, John McDonagh (22) of Ballymurtagh Cross, Shannon, Martin McDonagh (21) of St Helen’s Park, Shannon, and Patrick McDonagh (25) of St Helen’s Park, Ballymurtagh, Shannon, each pleaded guilty to engaging in violent disorder at the Oakwood hotel in Shannon on November 17, 2018.

Bernard McDonagh also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of assault causing harm on the night.

Any person convicted of violent disorder in the circuit court faces a jail term of up to 10 years.

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