Saturday 16 December 2017

Former court clerk fined for threatening to kill man he thought was having affair with wife loses appeal

Judge's gavel
Judge's gavel

Ruaidhri Giblin

A former court clerk fined for threatening to kill a man he thought was having an affair with his wife has lost an appeal against his conviction.

Father-of-four Ciaran Waldron (59), of Riverview, Buncrana, Co Donegal had found his now ex-wife sitting in a car by the seaside in Buncrana with another man on August 7 2006.

He had pleaded not guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court to reckless endangerment by driving his vehicle deliberately at Christine O'Kane and Anthony McColgan and threatening to kill Mr McColgan in Buncrana on that date.

Waldron was acquitted of reckless endangerment but unanimously found guilty by a jury of making a threat to kill Mr McColgan and was fined €1,000 by Judge John O'Hagan on July 12 2011.

Dismissing his appeal against conviction today, Mr Justice George Birmingham said Christine O'Kane was the estranged wife of Waldron and was at the time of the offence “in a form of relationship with Anthony McColgan”.

Mr Justice Birmingham said he used the term “form of relationship” because Ms O'Kane “baulked at the term 'relationship'” when it was put to her in the witness box.

Ms O'Kane had said during her evidence that she was afraid of Waldron because she had been in a very abusive marriage to him for 25 years.

Objections to the comment had been raised and the trial judge said he would deal with it later on in the trial.

However, Mr Justice Birmingham said the remark, which should not have been made, was volunteered by the witness and the impact, if anything, must have been limited.

He said the introduction of the material was not such that would bring into question the verdict or fairness of the trial and the trial judge had acted well within his discretion.

The judge had said that the remark was made in the context of long-running marital disharmony and an acrimonious break up. For one party to characterise the relationship as abusive was hardly surprising.

Waldron's legal team further submitted that the trial judge erred in law in describing to the jury the ingredients of the offence of making a threat.

The judge had told the jury that it wasn't Mr McColgan who had to believe the threat was real but Waldron.

That direction, taken in isolation, was certainly wrong, Mr Justice Birmingham said, but defence counsel said at the time that he was very happy with it.

In circumstances where the defence resisted a request for clarification and said they were very happy with what was said “this ground (of appeal) must fail”, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, dismissed the appeal.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had originally applied for a review of Waldron's sentence on grounds that it was unduly lenient.

However, on foot of queries from Mr Justice Birmingham, who asked whether the DPP still wished to proceed with the review in circumstances were the incident occured in 2006 and “we're now approaching the 10th anniversary”, the DPP withdrew their application.

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