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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Nephew beat up his uncle over family dispute about land

Court reporter

A family dispute over land, in which a man was beaten up by his nephew, who also smashed windows at his aunt’s house, was heard in Carlow District Court recently.

Judge Colin Daly was told that the late mother of Michael Humphries left the family farm to him and his brother Liam, but that six months after her death an incident occurred at a family party, during which Michael was assaulted by Liam’s son Conor.

Conor Humphries (24) of Whitestown Lower, Stratford-on-Slaney denied assaulting his uncle Michael Humphries at Main Street, Stratford on 15 May 2015. However, he did plead guilty to criminal damage charges that arose from later that night at The Stratford Arms, Stratford and Whitestown Upper, Stratford.

Michael Humphries told the court that he had been at a family party in the local pub and that when he left to go home to his flat across the road from the pub, he was hit on the head from behind and he fell to the ground.

Michael said that it was his nephew Conor who had hit him and that he continued to kick and hit him when he was on the ground.

The court heard that Conor lifted Michael’s head up from the footpath and said into his face that he had “better sign over the farm” to his father or that “he’d kill him by Wednesday”.

Under cross-examination by Roger Cross BL for Conor Humphries, Michael denied that he started an argument with his nephew or that he kicked him during the dispute.

Frances Humphries, a sister of Michael and Liam and an aunt of Conor, gave evidence in court, stating that when she went out to see what was happening she saw Conor kicking Michael, whose face “was covered in blood”, and that men who were at the scene had to “pull him away”.

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Under cross-examination, Frances admitted that she didn’t see the beginning of the assault.

David Carthy, a relative who had attended the party, said that he saw Conor and his brother Shane leaving the party seconds after Michael had left. The court heard that when he saw what had happened to Michael, he said to Conor: “Oh, ye f- -kers, ye did him.”

“Everyone was upset,” Mr Carthy said, adding that Conor alleged that he’d been hit by a bottle by Michael but that he didn’t see either man leaving the pub with a bottle.

Investigating garda Geoff Finn gave Judge Colin Daly an outline of the events that occurred after the assault. He said that the gardaí got a report that eight windows had been smashed at Frances Humphries’ house and that there had been a dispute earlier at a family party.

The court heard that when Conor was interviewed by gardaí, he said that he had “words” with Michael over an incident that occurred years before, when Michael had allegedly stuck a cigarette into his eye when he was 17 years’ old.

In the statement, he admitted to breaking the widow of the pub with his fist and breaking the windows on Frances’s house with a hammer, but he denied trying to set the curtains on fire while Frances’s husband was still in the house.

In the statement, he told gardaí that he did it because his grandmother should have left the farm only to his father Liam, but that Michael and Frances had persuaded her to change her will and that she then split it between the two sons.

In his direct evidence in court, Conor said that the altercation started outside the pub because Michael and he were arguing and pushing each other. He said that he fell onto the ground and that after Michael kicked him, he “lost it” and hit and kicked him back.

Inspector Conor Furlong put it to Michael that there was a “significant difference in the size” between Conor and his uncle and that it was “impossible” for the smaller, older Michael to knock him to the ground. Conor replied that it was possible and that was what had happened.

Conor’s brother Shane, who was outside the pub with Conor, gave evidence. He told the court that he didn’t want to get involved because Michael was his godfather and Conor was his brother. Under cross-examination, he agreed that his recollection of events was “poor” and that he couldn’t remember who started the row.

While Conor’s defence submitted that there was “contrary” evidence about the incident and that there was no independent witnesses as to what happened during the incident, Insp Furlong told Judge Daly that Michael’s evidence was “compelling” and that it was corroborated by Frances Humphries. He also said that there was no evidence that Michael hit Conor and he argued that Shane’s version of events was unreliable.

Judge Daly agreed, stating that the only evidence given by the person who witnessed the whole incident, Shane, was “sketchy at best” and found Conor guilty as charged. Judge Daly was told during the hearing that Michael sustained lacerations to his nose, face and head.

He then adjourned sentencing until 7 June next for a pre-sanction report to be prepared. He also ordered that Conor be assessed for suitability for community service and for the preparation of victim impact statements.

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