Saturday 18 November 2017

Father of four jailed for violent incident outside primary school in front of young children

A garda van opposite the school on Chapel Street, Balbriggan, Dublin, in November 2013
A garda van opposite the school on Chapel Street, Balbriggan, Dublin, in November 2013
Criminal Courts of Justice

Sonya McLean

A father of four has been jailed for four months for his role in a violent incident outside a Balbriggan school while many people were dropping off their children.

Clifford Whitehouse (39), of Knockbrack Downs, Drogheda, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to violent disorder at Chapel Street in the town on November 11, 2013.

The incident happened at 9am as there were a large number of mothers and children, including infants in prams, on their way to school. Ten of these mothers later gave witness statements to gardaí.

The court heard that during the incident a vehicle mounted the footpath and a number of people, including a woman who was due to give birth to her baby that day, had to jump out of the way. Mothers also had to push prams into driveways to avoid being struck.

Judge Martin Nolan said that vehicle had “made its escape in a very dangerous manner”.

He sentenced Whitehouse to 16 months in prison and suspended the final 12 months of that sentence. He added that Whitehouse had come to the school “armed and ready for trouble”.

Garda John Farrelly told Lorcan Staines BL, prosecuting that Whitehouse’s only role in the incident was to swipe at a van with the handle of an axe. He confirmed that while the windscreen of the van was smashed, Whitehouse was not responsible for this.

Whitehouse was later arrested and told gardaí he had agreed to go to the school that morning to act as security because threats had been issued against members of his family.

He said a hand gesture was made at him and he “lost his cool” so he attacked the van with the handle of a hatchet.

Whitehouse accepted that it was a serious incident and said had  he been walking with his kids that day he would have been afraid.

Gda Farrelly confirmed that Whitehouse has 34 previous convictions for burglary, road traffic offences, theft, possession of a knife and robbery.

He agreed with Rebecca Smith BL, defending, that Whitehouse had “exhibited genuine fear” during his garda interview.

Gda Farrelly accepted that it had been Whitehouse’s brother, who has since died, that asked him to come along with him that day.

Ms Smith said her client had one child from his first marriage, another child from a second relationship and two children with his current partner.

She said Whitehouse was greatly affected by the death of his father in 2009 and also by the death of his second partner in 2007.

Counsel said when his partner passed away Whitehouse started to abuse cannabis but he has since tackled that addiction and is now drug free.

She told Judge Nolan that her client accepts that his behaviour on the day was reckless.

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