A LIMERICK mart worker has successfully appealed a District Court order which found he had assaulted a farmer with a baton but did not record a conviction against him.
On April 23, 2021, Limerick District Court found the alleged facts of the assault were proven against Pat Ryan (66), who had denied assaulting John O’Brien, causing him harm.
Mr O’Brien had alleged that Mr Ryan, a long-time employee of the Golden Vale Mart Yard in Kilmallock, struck him across the face with a baton at the mart, on June 17, 2019.
Mr Ryan was one of a number of mart workers authorised to use a baton to direct livestock into a sale ring at the facility.
Last April, the sentencing judge found the facts were proven but applied the Probation Act, and no conviction was recorded against Mr Ryan.
Yesterday (Tuesday), Mr Ryan appealed that ruling at Limerick Circuit Court.
Judge Tom O’Donnell heard Mr O’Brienwas pursuing a civil claim for damages against Mr Ryan of St Ann’s Terrace, Kilfinane, arising out of the alleged assault.
Judge O’Donnell said Mr Ryan’s application to effectively appeal his non-conviction was unheard of in his 25 years on the bench.
When Judge O’Donnell asked Aidan Judge, State Solicitor for County Limerick, “as a matter of law, can one appeal the Probation Act. I didn’t think one could?”, Mr Judge replied that it was technically possible.
Judge O’Donnell told Mr Ryan’s solicitor Brendan Gill that, because the appeal meant he would be hearing the evidence, it was now open to him to potentially record a conviction against Mr Ryan.
Mr O’Brien told the court Mr Ryan hit him with a baton on the right side of his face, causing bruising and swelling to his jaw.
He said he had been due to have a filling put in one of his teeth but his dentist couldn’t perform the procedure as he couldn’t open his mouth wide enough.
Mr O’Brien complained of headaches and dizzy spells after the alleged assault. He went to a doctor who prescribed pain relief and ordered an X-ray.
Under cross examination, Mr O’Brien insisted the doctor had told him “there was swelling in the jaw”.
However, Mr Gill said that while the doctor’s report noted Mr O’Brien had complained of tenderness in his left cheek, there no mention of swelling or bruising or cuts or any injury.
Mr Gill put it to Mr O’Brien that the dentist’s medical report found no injury to Mr O’Brien’s teeth – to which Mr O’Brien replied: “Sorry, the dentist couldn’t do the filling.”
The results of the X-ray of Mr O’Brien’s jaw were normal, the court heard.
Mr Gill put it to Mr O’Brien he had taken civil proceedings against Mr Ryan and that Mr Ryan believed he was fabricating the assault for financial gain.
Mr O’Brien replied: “I went to yourselves about it first, well not you, but a colleague of yours who advised me.”
Mr Gill responded: “That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
Both Mr O’Brien and Mr Ryan agreed they did not get along with one another.
Mr O’Brien claimed he had permission to enter one of the mart’s livestock sale rings on the day in question. However Mr Ryan stated that members of the public are not allowed into the ring for “health and safety and insurance reasons”.
Mr Ryan said “certain words were exchanged” between the pair but, he told the court, “I did not strike Mr O’Brien”.
Mr Ryan said they had “never seen eye eye” but that the day in question was their first confrontation.
Mr O’Brien agreed that he made a complaint to Gardaí seven days after the alleged assault.
A Garda who took Mr O’Brien’s statement on that date, told the court she did not see any sign of injury to Mr O’Brien’s face.
Mr Gill told the court there were no witnesses to the alleged assault, and no evidence of any injuries. He said it “would not be right or fair” to convict Mr Ryan.
Judge O’Donnell said the onus was on the prosecution to prove the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and he was satisfied it had not achieved this.
Allowing Mr Ryan’s appeal, and striking out the order of the District Court, the judge said: “Given the evidence I have to have some doubt and I therefore have to give the benefit of it to Mr Ryan.”