Tuesday 24 October 2017

Suspended sentence for man who threw petrol bomb through TD's constituency office

John Clarke, aged 41 from Ballina, Co. Mayo leaving the Circuit Criminal Court in Castlebar, Co. Mayo after pleading guilty to the arson of Senator Michelle Mulhern's Constituency office in Ballina, Co. Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus.
John Clarke, aged 41 from Ballina, Co. Mayo leaving the Circuit Criminal Court in Castlebar, Co. Mayo after pleading guilty to the arson of Senator Michelle Mulhern's Constituency office in Ballina, Co. Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus.

Tom Shiel

A 41 year-old man who flung a petrol bomb through the window of a Dáil Deputy's constituency office causing €23,000 damage was given a suspended four-year prison sentence by a judge today.

John Clarke, Greenhills Estate, Ballina, had pleaded guilty at an earlier sitting of of the Circuit Criminal Court to the arson attack on former Mayo TD Michelle Mulherin at John Street, Ballina, on January 27, 2015.

Ms Mulherin was a Fine Gael TD at the time of the attack. She lost her seat in last year's general election and is now a Senator.

At today's sentencing hearing before Judge Rory MacCabe in Castlebar, Diarmuid Connolly, counsel, asked for a non-custodial sentence.

He said the medical evidence tendered to the earlier court was that at the time the offence was committed Mr. Clarke was 'floridly psychotic'.

Mr Connolly said the defendant has written a letter where he apologises to his victim and to make it clear that at no stage was this intended as a personal attack.

Fine Gael senator Michelle Mulherin from Mayo Picture: Tom Burke
Fine Gael senator Michelle Mulherin from Mayo Picture: Tom Burke

Counsel added that the defendant had taken steps to ensure there was nobody on the premises so that no physical harm could come to any individual.

Mr Connolly submitted that any concerns the court might have about what might happen in the future could be allayed by the reports from medical practicioners which suggest that if the defendant continues with medication he is at low risk or no risk of reoffending.

Counsel went on to describe the defendant as “well got” within the community, has degrees in science of an environmental nature and is involved in what is known as the Ballina Community Garden Project.

Judge MacCabe described the incident as “very disturbing” and “potentially life threatening”.

However, the judge said he had studied extensive medical reports and, in his opinion, the defendant carries a low degree of moral culpability for his conduct and is at a low risk of re-offending provided he complies with medication requirements and abstains from drugs or alcohol.

The Judge imposed a four year prison sentence suspended for six years. He placed the defendant under the continued supervision of the Probation Service for a year.

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