Monday 15 October 2018

Man who threatened and falsely imprisoned his ex-wife jailed for two years

Timothy Laffey appeared for sentencing at Mullingar Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore
Timothy Laffey appeared for sentencing at Mullingar Circuit Court sitting in Tullamore

Isabel Hayes

A man who threatened his wife with a knuckle-duster and pulled a gun on her while holding her inside her home has been jailed for two years.

After releasing his now ex-wife, William Harton (41) then held a stand-off with the garda emergency response unit for a further two hours, before finally giving himself up.

Harton had kicked in the door of his family home and dragged his terrified wife back inside the house when she tried to escape, before holding her for there for two hours, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.

Sentencing him to two years' imprisonment, Judge Martin Nolan said Harton's wife had had “much to endure” as a result of his actions.

“To imprison someone against their will for that period of time is a terrifying experience,” Judge Nolan said.

He noted that Harton had since relocated to Co. Wexford and it might be “better for everybody” if he remained there following his release from jail.

Harton, formerly off Killinarden Estate, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty to one count of falsely imprisoning Amy Harton at her home in Sandyford on February 16 last year. He also pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm and possession of cocaine on the same date.

Garda Brian Davin told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that the Hartons had marriage difficulties and Ms Harton, a mother-of-three, had taken out a barring order against him.

On the evening of February 13 2017 Harton breached the barring order by entering the family home. He was drunk and under the influence of drugs, the court heard, and accused Ms Harton of being in a relationship with one of his friends.

He then had some sort of fit and was taken to hospital by ambulance. Three days later Ms Harton was at home alone at 11.30am when she heard knocking on the front door. As she approached the door Harton kicked it in.

The victim managed to slip by him into the front garden, but Harton grabbed her by the arm and dragged her back into the house. A neighbour witnessed the incident and the victim screamed at them to call the gardaí.

Inside the house, Harton produced a hand gun, which his ex-wife recognised as an imitation firearm that belonged to her son, who collected war memorabilia.

He once again accused her of dating other men and ordered her to unlock her mobile phone for him. He then produced a knuckle-duster and put it up to her face.

At one point, Ms Harton told him: “Do your worst. If you're going to kill me, kill me.”

Gardaí arrived, including the emergency response unit and a garda negotiator. Ms Harton screamed at them that the gun was a fake, but Harton told her he had recovered parts for the firearm and it was now functioning. This was later found not to be the case.

During the stand-off, Harton swallowed a large number of pills and took two lines of cocaine, the court heard.

Harton eventually released his wife when she unlocked her phone for him. She was physically unharmed. He stayed in the house for a further two hours before giving himself up to gardaí at around 3.20pm.

When interviewed by gardaí, Harton said he couldn't remember much of what happened. He has nine previous convictions, mainly for road traffic offences. He has one domestic violence conviction from Spain relating to his wife.

A victim impact statement by Ms Harton was handed up in court but not read out.

Defence counsel, Colman Fitzgerald SC, said his client was extremely remorseful for his actions. “He knows there is no excuse for what he did,” he said.

The court heard Harton was in custody for a month after the incident, before he was released on bail. He has since moved to Wexford as part of his bail conditions and has had no contact with this wife and children since.

“This is a man who almost all his life has been a decent man,” Mr Fitzgerald said. He said his client “completely went off the rails” after the sudden death of his sister in 2014.

His sister had cared for the family after Harton's mother's death when he was aged 12 and he had an “extreme grief reaction” to her death, the court heard. He became addicted to alcohol and drugs and his relationship with his wife broke down as a result.

He is now in a new relationship and his partner recently had a baby.

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