frightening | 

Man with autism assaulted after girls wrongly accused him of following them on his daily walk

The girls had reported that they perceived the man to follow them and ran because he ‘looked weird’

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Fiona FergusonSunday World

A young man with autism was assaulted after two girls wrongly accused him of following them as he was on his daily walk, a court has heard.

George Langan (37) was one of two people who grabbed the young man, asked if he had been chasing the girls and restrained him on the ground. A woman at the scene kicked the distressed victim on the ground and shouted abuse.

The girls had reported that they perceived the man to follow them and ran because he “looked weird.”

Investigating gardai established there was absolutely no suggestion that the young man had done anything wrong or acted in any way inappropriately throughout the matter.

Langan has expressed remorse for his actions in hindsight and his lawyers asked the court to forgive him for his rush to judgement.

Langan, of Woodavens, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting the then 21-year-old man causing him harm on August 13, 2020. He has 21 previous convictions, mainly for road traffic offences.

Judge Martin Nolan remarked after hearing first the evidence last week that this had been “vigilante justice” in which a young man out walking while minding his own business had been attacked on the basis of unsubstituted claims by two young girls which had not been assessed in any way.

He noted the case had a very bad effect on the victim and had adjourned sentencing over the weekend.

On Monday, Judge Nolan noted the girls - for reasons known only to themselves - had made totally and utterly unfounded allegations against the young man and this was relayed to Langan.

Judge Nolan said Langan had encountered the victim, whom he restrained, pushed to the ground and held in what was a frightening experience for the young man.

He said this had been a case of someone taking the law into their own hand and it was particularly unfortunate in this case that it involved a vulnerable person.

Judge Nolan noted the young man had been pushed to the ground, restrained and held there, but apart from that there had not been much actual violence.

He noted the guilty plea, expression of remorse and that Langan was unlikely to reoffend.

The judge said in this case he thought it would be unjust to send Langan to prison and imposed two years which he suspended in full on a number of conditions, including that he gather €3,000 within one year for the injured party or, if he does not wish to accept it, for charity.

Garda Austin Kelly told Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, that the injured party, who has a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, lives at home with his family and while he requires some assistance, he has independence within his routine including going on a daily walk, following the route each time.

On this particular day during his walk he came across two young girls, about 12 years old. He noticed them and stopped to let them pass, keeping his social distance, before continuing on his walk behind them.

He saw that the girls appeared to take note of him, before squealing and running away, which confused him.

He continued on his walk, but then two men came running at him from a car accusing him of doing something wrong and asking did he chase the girls. He was pushed to the ground and restrained there by the men, one of whom was Langan.

A woman at the scene kicked the young man and called him a paedophile. The young man was terrified and paralysed with fear. Gardai arrived and took control of the situation.

Gardai established that a complaint had been made to Langan and he was driving around looking for the man that the girls had described. He said he wanted to find the man and then call gardai.

The second man gave a false name at the scene and is not before the courts.

The girls told gardai they had perceived a strange man to follow them and got scared and ran. They both told gardai the man had not done anything to them and they ran because “he looked weird.”

The young man was very upset and gardai brought him to the station where he was collected by his father.

The court heard he suffered some scrapes to his knees and neck, but the primary effects were emotional and psychological. The offence affected his confidence and independence in going about his routine.

Langan told gardai during interview he had been genuinely worried after hearing from the girls and acted to protect people. He said was not aware of the young man’s diagnosis and denied he had overreacted.

Keith Spencer BL, defending, said it had been a “very unfortunate misunderstanding” and his client reacted on what had been relayed to him. He said Langan does not have any convictions for violent offences.

Mr Spencer said Langan has expressed remorse for his actions in hindsight. He apologised and has brought €500 to court. He asked the court to forgive him for his rush to judgement.

He said Langan, a father of one, had been a football player with Bolton Wanderers before a ligament injury put an end to his career. He is in employment with a consistent work record and volunteers in his community.

Mr Spencer urged Judge Nolan not to imprison Langan, saying events conspired to leave him with a false belief and he regrets his actions. He submitted the injuries sustained had been towards the lower end of the scale.

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