A 52 year old rural Co Sligo farmer admitted to investigating gardaí that he made a threat to kill his neighbouring farmer after a dispute arose over a tree being cut down.
The court heard the tree was located between their adjoining properties and the defendant was in the process of cutting it down for firewood.
Peter Costello of Mullaghmore, Sooey, Co Sligo was given a suspended sentence by Judge Sandra Murphy at Sligo District Court after hearing evidence.
The defendant was facing a number of charges including making at threat to kill or cause serious harm to Michael Dowd at Cloonskirt, Sooey on January 1st 2021.
He was also charged with engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour at Carrowkeel, Sooey on the same date.
Another charge of resisting arrest by Sergeant Therese Duignan was also before the court.
Defending solicitor Mr Tom MacSharry told the court there was a Probation Report present.
Sgt Duignan of Riverstown Garda Station said that on the date in question at 4:30pm she received a report from Michael Dowd that a threat to kill had been made to him.
There was a dispute about a tree that was bordering his property that Peter Costello was cutting down without permission as he owned the tree.
Later in the day Costello proceeded to chop up the tree and Mr Dowd drove by asking him not to cut anymore.
Costello told him he was a lickarse for the guards and asked him to come down and fight and said he’d ‘cut every f**king tree down’. He made to go for the gate as if to get onto the road where Mr Dowd was. Another man arrived and saw the commotion.
Mr Dowd returned to his house and the other man rang a neighbour.
Sgt Duignan was contacted again and went to where Peter Costello was using a chainsaw on the butt of the tree and there were two men working in the field with him. He was asked to desist and to come up to the road but he refused. The sergeant said he was verbally abusive to them and continued to chop up the tree. He was again asked to desist and the two persons left. Ten minutes later he turned off the chainsaw and came up. Sgt Duignan said she informed him Michael Dowd had said he made a threat to kill him and his response was ‘I did, yeah’ and that he told him he’d kill him if he came into his property. He said to the gardaí that they had no witnesses.
The sergeant said he was advancing towards her and was not wearing a mask and was squaring up to her. She told him to keep back and he kept coming towards her and she asked him to stop and if he didn’t she would have to use pepper spray. Another man who was there said to him don’t threaten a woman and he did back off.
There was a conversation about the alleged threat which he ignored.
He then got into his tractor and left
On February 5th 2021 Sgt Duignan accompanied by Garda Padraic Leydon went to arrest Costello.
He was on the public road talking manure from a shed to a field. There was manure on the road and he had a shovel in his hand.
Sgt Duginan informed him he was being arrested.
Gda Leydon removed the shovel from him. The sergeant said Costello made every effort to avoid arrest.
They both had to try and restrain him and he was in a rage.
They tried to pacify him but he was lashing out for a few minutes and there was a struggle.
He was informed that pepper spray would have to be used and at one stage when he was on the ground he was making efforts to get free and he tried to knock the pepper spray out of Sgt Duignan’s hand but she eventually used it and they arrested him.
She said he did co-operate from then on and he was conveyed to Ballymote Garda Station where he was later charged.
Mr MacSharry said that in relation to his client he did apologise to Sgt Duignan and Garda Leydon and the sergeant agreed that he apologised a few weeks or months later.
She agreed with the solicitor that he also apologised to Mr Dowd.
Mr MacSharry said they were very serious matters in relation to a threat to kill being made and he said there was no physical violence and the sergeant agreed.
Mr MacSharry said the threat was made when he was in his field and the dispute was over a tree and his client would say it was on the border of his and Mr Dowd’s lands.
The sergeant said in relation to the tree is was more of a civil matter.
Mr MacSharry said his client was pleading guilty and that both matters including the obstruction had happened in January and February 2021.
He had no previous convictions, he said.
Mr MacSharry added his client was 52 years old and the primary carer for his elderly mother who was 85 years old and suffers with Alzheimers.
He said he fully accepts what he did was wrong and that he should have co-operated and that he asked to renew his apology.
He had feared that if he was arrested there would be nobody there to look after his mother.
The solicitor said to Sgt Duignan that he should of course have gone with the gardaí but at the time his concern was in relation to his mother.
Mr MacSharry said that his client had engaged fully with the Probation Services.
The report outlined that there were mental health issues namely bipolar and the sergeant agreed.
He said his client had apologised to Sgt Duignan at a previous court and she agreed saying he had apologised to all parties.
She said he came in on separate occasions to the garda station in order to apologise also.
Mr MacSharry said Sgt Duignan was very fair in what she said. Judge Murphy enquired with her if she had any long-term impact with the way she had been treated and she said no, she didn’t feel anyway at risk.
She said she didn’t think he was ever going to do anything more and she was sure she would have been able to handle the situation.
She said a person on the road who maybe knew Costello a long time had stepped in too.
Mr MacSharry told the court that in fairness, Sgt Duignan was an incredibly fair officer of the highest calibre who was highly respected in Riverstown and the county of Sligo.
He said his client said a number of times how remorseful he was. The solicitor added it was like a red mist had descended on him. He had no previous convictions.
He described him as the primary carer for his elderly mother and he does realise these are very serious matters.
He had apologised to Mr Dowd and he accepted it.
The Probation Report deemed him as a low-risk of reoffending, he said.
He asked Judge Murphy to consider the possibility of community service or anything of that nature. He said his client is a physically fit healthy man.
The defendant then spoke to the court and said he was sorry to all the people he had caused bother and that he was suffering with depression and was trying to get over it and hoping to get over it with the help of God.
Mr MacSharry added that they were very serious matters over a period of two months and his client does have very good testimonials in court.
Mr Costello said he also wanted to say thanks to Sgt Duignan on the day and that she was always good to him.
Judge Murphy said she had read the Probation Report which outlines his mental health issues and there were no issues with drug or alcohol which was very positive.
She said that in relation to the issues what happened fell into a category of background mental health issues.
However they are extremely serious and the judge said a threat to kill is extremely serious.
She added the obstruction of Sergeant Duignan and Garda Leydon was all really part of the one incident.
She said in the circumstances, having read the report the system they have doesn’t really deal with people in these circumstances.
She said she was going to convict and sentence him to 3 months in prison on the threat to kill charge, suspending it for a year.
She took into consideration the Public Order charge.
On the obstruction charge, she convicted him and sentenced him to 2 months suspended for a year, a five months sentence in total.
She told Costello he must keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
Both he and Mr MacSharry thanked her.