shopping brawl | 

Longford man (52) who stabbed rival in feud attack in busy shopping centre is jailed

CCTV footage played in court showed both men crossing paths at the entrance to the shopping centre and Mr McGinley swinging punches at Mr Hannifin

Jessica Thompson

This is the Longford criminal who has been jailed for 52 months after he stabbed a rival during a fight in a shopping centre.

Denis Hannifin, Curry, Athlone Road, Longford, was on trial in Longford Circuit Court earlier this year and was found guilty of assault, affray, production of a knife, possession of a knife and recklessly or intentionally causing serious harm to Denis McGinley in December 2018.

During his trial, the court heard that, on December 7, 2018, Mr Hannifin was Christmas shopping in Longford Shopping Centre with his wife when there was an altercation with Mr McGinley.

CCTV footage played in court over the course of the three day trial showed both men crossing paths at the entrance to the shopping centre and Mr McGinley swinging punches at Mr Hannifin, who takes what a garda witness described as "a shiny implement" believed to be a knife from his pocket.

The altercation ended up inside Lloyd's Pharmacy where Mr McGinley said he was "begging him to stop" because "I was bleeding to death". CCTV footage shows a large amount of blood on the floor of the pharmacy.

This week, Hannifin was sentenced to 52 months in prison with the final eight months suspended after a jury found him guilty of section 4 assault causing serious harm.

Mr Tallat Ejaz, a surgeon at Mullingar Regional Hospital, told the court that he examined Mr McGinley on December 7, 2018, when he arrived at A&E with "multiple stab wounds".

He told the court that, while Mr McGinley's injuries were not fatal, they could have resulted in death if he had not received immediate medical attention.

Mr Hannifin's defence barrister, Barry White, put forward a lengthy case for self-defence on the part of Mr Hannifin, stressing that his client had been attacked by Mr McGinley and was simply protecting himself.

He brought forward evidence of a phone call between Mr McGinley and his father, which he said proved there was intent to "knock sparks" out of Mr Hannifin.

"Make sure he doesn't have a knife because he probably will," were words spoken by a man, presumed by the defence to be Mr McGinley's father.

"He probably will but I'll knock sparks out of him before he gets a chance to use it," said the other man, presumed to be Mr McGinley.

In delivering sentence this afternoon, Judge Comerford acknowledged that Mr McGinley's injuries "could have resulted in death" and did result in "disfigurement" for Mr McGinley who has scarring as a result.

However, he also noted that the initial aggressor was Mr McGinley who he said "carried out an attack with the intent of showing up Mr Hannifin, whether by injuring him or humiliating him".

"I have a lot of sympathy for men in the Travelling Community who go out and commit these offences," said Judge Comerford.

"It's sad that within some members of the community, the families teach them to go out and get involved in these feuds.

"Mr McGinley's father counselled him to do this. So rather than doing something that he thought was wrong, he was doing something that his father encouraged him to do on behalf of his family.

"He knew it was dangerous to do this because his father told him Mr Hannifin would probably have a knife but his response was that he would attack so quickly and 'knock sparks' out of him so that he wouldn't be able to defend himself."

Judge Comerford was satisfied that Mr Hannifin was out doing his Christmas shopping.

"It's clear to me that all of the aggression came from Mr McGinley but Mr Hannifin was fast. He dropped the package he was carrying and drew his knife at an early stage," he said.

"There was a risk of death, however the surgeon made it clear that the risk was dealt with. Mr McGinley was in circumstances where he was always going to get medical attention because of where he was

"There's a high degree of culpability with Mr Hannifin.

"He was on some level aware there was a dispute and he was prepared for violence. It seems clear the purpose of carrying a knife was foe if he was involved in an altercation and there was a readiness to be involved.

"However, this was not a premeditated attack by Mr Hannifin. He didn't make any aggressive move towards Mr McGinley. Mr McGinley came at him so fast, ready to 'knock sparks out of him' before he could get to his knife.

"Mr Hannifin was entitled to defend himself but the way he defended himself was grossly excessive and it's easy to see why the jury convicted him.

For the section 4 assault causing serious harm charge, Mr Hannifin was sentenced to 52 months in prison with the final eight months suspended.

Concurrent sentences of 30 months and 25 months were also handed down for the production and use of a knife and affray.

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