Man who threatened to cut off priest's fingers is spared jail
A man with a religious persecution disorder who followed a parish priest into a sacristy with a knife and threatened to cut off his fingers has received a suspended sentence.
Mark Halligan (45), of Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making a threat to kill or cause serious harm at a church in Balally, Dundrum, on September 11, 2016.
Garda Ronan Kennedy told Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question the accused followed Fr Peter Byrne into the church's sacristy. Halligan began to talk about "various things".
Gda Kennedy said Halligan had a large knife with him and told the priest he would "cut your fingers off".
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A parishioner saw what was happening and contacted gardaí who arrested the accused at the scene.
Halligan has 17 previous convictions, including convictions for theft, misuse of drugs, criminal damage, public order offences and road traffic offences. He has two children with an ex-partner.
Gda Kennedy agreed with Fiona Murphy SC, defending, that there were no injuries to the priest during the incident.
He agreed her client had engaged with St John of God Hospital subsequent to the incident and there had been no problems since.
Ms Murphy said her client has been diagnosed with a religious persecution disorder, which is a strain of schizophrenia.
She said he had always worked in the past until the last two or three years when his mental health difficulties took over.
Judge Martin Nolan said he could accept Halligan was delusional on the date in question. He sentenced him to three years' imprisonment, but suspended it in full on a number of conditions.