A YOUNG woman who failed to appear as a witness in a murder trial has received the probation act for what a judge described as a "clear and blatant contempt of court".
Stephanie Tuite (20) is the former girlfriend of Daniel McDonnell who last week was jailed for life for the murder of 16-year-old Melanie McCarthy-McNamara.
She appeared before the Central Criminal Court this morning after a warrant was issued for her arrest last Thursday.
The court heard Tuite was "petrified" of coming to court and was in great fear, not only of Daniel McDonnell, but others associated with him.
Mr Justice Paul Carney told Ms Tuite, from Glenshane Crescent in Tallaght, she "couldn't have been a more important witness" in a very serious trial and she "went to ground in a very deliberate fashion".
The judge said Ms Tuite's failure to turn up could have "derailed" a very serious case involving a 16-year-old girl who was shot dead.
However, the judge accepted Ms Tuite had found out she had been the girlfriend of an assassin prepared to assassinate a young girl and boast about it and this was "clearly a terrifying experience for her".
Mr Justice Carney imposed the probation act, after Ms Tuite gave an undertaking she will come to court if ever summonsed to do so again.
Garda Sinead McCormack told the court she served a witness summons on Ms Tuite in March 2013.
She subsequently spoke to her by telephone on January 9, 2014 when Ms Tuite told her she was not coming to court, "under no circumstances".
Gda McCormack said Ms Tuite refused to meet her, saying she was terrified of coming to court.
The garda said she received a medical report on January 10 last, stating Ms Tuite had attended her doctor in a "highly distressed state".
Gda McCormack said the doctor recommended she be excused from attending court for the sake of her mental health.
The court heard a bench warrant was issued for Ms Tuite on January 21.
Gda McCormack said she text Ms Tuite to inform her of the warrant but did not receive a reply.
She went to Ms Tuite's home on a number of occasions and spoke to her parents, who said she had left home and was terrified of coming to court.
The garda said she also contacted Ms Tuite's employer, who said she had called in sick.
The court heard Ms Tuite was arrested at her home by Garda Kieran Kilcoyne at 1.25am on Monday morning last.
Defence counsel, Vincent Heneghan BL, said Ms Tuite, who has no previous convictions, wished to apologise wholeheartedly for her behaviour.
Mr Heneghan described the murder of Melanie McCarthy McNamara as an "execution type murder" carried out by Daniel McDonnell.
He said McDonnell was Ms Tuite's boyfriend and she was in "great fear" of both him and others associated with him.
Mr Heneghan said Ms Tuite did not intend to "play ducks and drakes with the court" and she had no proper real excuse for failing to answer the summons other than she was terrified.
Mr Justice Carney said that if he recorded a conviction Ms Tuite's life could be blighted, and he did not wish to do this after what she has gone through.
He imposed the probation act after Ms Tuite gave an undertaking to obey all future court orders.
Daniel McDonnell’s trial heard he had written a letter to Ms Tuite while in custody in which he spoke about the killing of Ms McCarthy-McNamara.
He wrote the shooting would not have happened if he had known she was in the car.
The letter was intercepted by prison authorities.
Ms McCarthy-McNamara died after she was shot in the head while sitting in a car with her boyfriend and another man in Tallaght in February 2012.