COUNCILLOR Jackie Healy-Rae – the son of Kerry TD Michael – has lost his Circuit Court appeal against his December 2019 conviction for assault causing harm.
The Kerry County Councillor was sentenced to a total of eight months (three months and five months concurrent) for the two linked assaults with both sentences suspended for six months.
In a key finding the Judge also ruled that Cllr Healy-Rae had lied to gardaí when questioned about the incident .
Cllr Healy Rae had claimed he was attempting to restrain people and prevent violence during the late night-incident in Kenmare for which he, his brother, Kevin and a friend, were subsequently convicted of assaulting a man following a row over queue-jumping at a chip van.
Cllr Healy-Rae (26), who had been sentenced to eight months suspended, launched his appeal against his conviction on Tuesday and the verdict was delivered by Judge Francis Comerford on Wednesday evening.
Cllr Healy-Rae’s appeal is proceeding, his younger brother, Kevin Healy-Rae (25), withdrew his appeal against an assault conviction arising form the same incident.
A third man – a friend of the Healy-Rae brothers – Malachy Scannell (36) of Inchinacoosh, Kilgarvan, also withdrew his appeal to an assault-causing-harm conviction which resulted from the same incident.
Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae, Kevin Healy-Rae (25) and Malachy Scannell were convicted three years ago of assaulting a man in Kenmare on December 28, 2017.
The victim of the assault, Kieran James; and his then-fiancée and now wife, Lauren James, both attended Tuesday’s hearing having travelled from London to give evidence.
Mr James – who has family in Kilgarvan – told the court that, following an evening socialising with relatives at the Square Pint bar in Kenmare, he and his companions went to a nearby chip van to buy food before going home.
After Mr and Mrs James had ordered, the court heard that Kevin Healy-Rae had barged to the front of the queue, ‘slammed’ money on the counter and ordered food.
Mrs James told the court that when she “politely” told the chip van server that Mr Healy-Rae had jumped the queue, he said “This is my chip van” and “this is my town”.
Mr James said that Kevin Healy-Rae then pushed him against the side of the chip van, and he was then grabbed from behind and put into a headlock by Jackie Healy-Rae.
Mr James said he was “struggling to breathe” while Cllr Healy-Rae had his arm around his throat.
When he was released, Mr James and his group decided to leave the area immediately and proceeded up Main Street.
When they were a short distance up the street, they heard shouting from behind them and turned to see three men running towards them and shouting aggressively.
Mr James said that within a matter of seconds, Jackie Healy-Rae had grabbed him and prevented him from moving while Kevin Healy-Rae and Malachy Scannell “punched my face in”.
Mr and Mrs James both insisted that Jackie Healy-Rae also punched Mr James several times during the assault.
Giving evidence in his own defence on Wednesday Cllr Jackie Healy Rae claim that he had not seen anyone struck during the assault for which his brother and friend had previously been found guilty and dropped their appeals.
When asked by Prosecution Barrister Tom Rice if he accepted that Mr James had been assaulted – a fact accepted by Mr Berry on several occasions during the two day trial – Cllr Healy Rae declined to go into detail.
“Based on the medical evidence It’s safe to assume something happened. I can’t say with any certainty how the injuries happened or who did what,” Cllr Healy Rae told the Court.
Asked the same question again Cllr Healy-Rae said “I can’t say what did or didn’t happen.”
Cllr Healy Rae also denied lying to gardaí when he provided a statement stating that he could not say if Malachy Scannell had been present on the night of the assault.
Pressed on the inconsistencies in his statement to gardaí Cllr Healy Rae admitted that he didn’t give gardaí “the fullness of my side of the story" but denied lying.
“I don’t believe I told lies. Could I have added more? Absolutely,” said Cllr Healy-Rae.
Delivering his verdict Judge Comerford said he was entirely satisfied that the version of events provided by Mr James; his wife and their companions on the night were absolutely true and that he “absolutely rejected” any suggestion to the contrary.
Judge Comerford said that he did not believe that there was “any reasonable possibility” that Cllr Healy Rae had been actively trying to stop the assault as he had claimed.
“Jackie Healy-Rae was not the instigator but I do not believe his account that he just stood there without getting involved,” said Judge Comerford.
He also said it was “inconceivable” that Cllr Healy Rae could have been present at the scene of the assault on Main Street and did not see anyone being hit.
The Judge also ruled that Cllr Healy Rae had lied to gardaí.
“He was perfectly prepared to lie to gardaí to prevent people getting blame and he did that,” said Judge Comerford.
The judge said the reason for this was to get someone out of a charge that they were subsequently found guilty of.
With regard to the incident at the chip van - for which Cllr Healy-Rae was facing a separate assault charge - Judge Comerford said he did not accept the Cllr Healy-Rae’s claim that he was merely restraining Mr James and did not use excessive force.
Judge Comerford said he was “satisfied” that the correct verdict was to deny the appeal and affirm the original verdict of the District Court.
He imposed concurrent five and three month sentences both of which he suspended for six months.