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Man is jailed for verbally abusing woman on beach

Victim outlined incidents with defendant as she walked her dogs on Enniscrone beach

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Gerard Stokes at a previous sitting of Sligo District Court

Gerard Stokes at a previous sitting of Sligo District Court

Gerard Stokes at a previous sitting of Sligo District Court

A 52-year-old man who was verbally abusive to a woman on Enniscrone beach on a number of occasions was handed a five month prison sentence by Judge Kevin Kilrane at Thursday's sitting of Sligo District Court.

When sentencing Gerard Stokes of Cahermore Holiday Home in Enniscrone, Judge Kilrane said the defendant had shown no regard for any court procedures by what he called his antics in court.

He thought Stokes felt he had a mental capability that was above people's and he had shown contempt for others, the judge added.

"His general attitude has shown not the slightest evidence of remorse," he said.

Stokes was charged with threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour on four dates; February 25th 2019, February 26th 2019, February 28th 2019 and March 1st 2019. There are further charges before the court that have yet to be dealt with.

During the lengthy case, the court heard from the victim of Stokes's verbal abuse, Helen Gaughan.

Inspector Paul Kilcoyne asked Ms Gaughan to outline the background to the incidents in question. She said that on the first date, February 25th 2019 she was walking her 2 dogs on the beach and Stokes was approaching with his Greyhound dog.

She said he took some sort of fit and got down on his two knees and started roaring. Ms Gaughan said it was all right that the dogs were only playing and he replied that it wasn't all right.

Ms Gaughan told the court that the defendant then started using insulting language towards her, swearing at her and calling her names, big, fat, ugly and worse, telling her that she thought she was something with her head stuck up in the air.

She said she went to the local gardaĆ­ in Enniscrone about what had happened. On February 26th, Ms Gaughan said she was on the beach again and Stokes was roaring at her saying 'you called the guards on me, you stupid, ugly bitch'.

Ms Gaughan explained on February 28th 2019 she was coming back from walking the beach and Stokes was a good distance away and he started calling names again.

"He said Kevin is going to love you and I said 'who are you taking about?' and then he said you've a big fat arse," she said.

On March 1st 2019 Ms Gaughan said it was the same again, that Stokes was on the steps and there was no way she could avoid him. "It's going on two years," she told Judge Kilrane.

Inspector Kilcoyne asked if the incidents had occurred in the same area on a number of consecutive days and she replied they had. Ms Gaughan said that on February 25th there was people around while on February 26th, there was no one around.

Ms Gaughan explained that due to a house fire, she had moved to emergency accommodation on November 27th and Stokes was living nearby.

The Inspector then asked how she felt about the comments and Ms Gaughan replied 'I'm afraid of him'. She said they never had any interactions as such and they used to say hello. "I don't understand what he has against me," she added.

Defending solicitor Mr Eddie Henry asked Ms Gaughan that on February 26th if his client was a good distance away from her and she replied he was, that she was walking the shoreline. Mr Henry asked if a difficulty had arisen about the dogs and Ms Gaughan said the dogs were playing, that Stokes's dog ran over to her two dogs and she told him they were only playing but he started getting abusive.

Mr Henry asked if her dogs were on leads and she said the cocker spaniel wasn't but the smaller one was and that Stokes's dog was on a lead.

Mr Henry said that his client says the cause of the incidents were because Ms Gaughan's dogs were loose on the beach and were the cause of the difficulty that arose.

Mr Henry added his clients says all he said was 'your dogs should be on leads'. Ms Gaughan replied that Stokes shouted she should have her dogs on leads and after that he called her names.

Mr Henry asked Ms Gaughan that prior to this when she lived adjacent to Stokes that she frequently called to his house. She said she smoked tobacco and once called because she needed cigarette papers.

Mr Henry said his client was of the opinion that she knocked on his door on a regular basis and he asked her not to, to which she said 'that's a lie'.

Mr Henry then said his client was of the opinion that was the reason she was bringing these accusations against him. Ms Gaughan said she was never with him and she only knew him to say hello to on the street.

Sergeant Helen Cuddy of Enniscrone Garda Station told the court when Ms Gaughan was recounting the various interactions she had with the defendant she appeared upset, fed up and frightened.

"She was afraid that if she got on a bus to Ballina and he was on it that it would start again."

Witness met Stokes outside the Garda station and had asked him if he wanted to make a statement and he declined. He said he wasn't on the beach and if he was, it was too windy to hear, Sgt Cuddy added.

Mr Henry told the sergeant that his client alleged she was shouting at him and he (Stokes) asked her 'could you lower your voice, Helen'.

"I could have raised my voice as it was very hard to get a word in," Sergeant Cuddy replied.

The defendant was then called to the witness box and Inspector Kilcoyne requested him to hand over what appeared to be a recording device he was wearing on his shirt to his solicitor, which he did.

Stokes said that Ms Gaughan has lived in Enniscrone for many years and although he is on the beach every day, he had only met her once and said he had video evidence of it. He said it was about ten in the morning and he was on the promenade.

He claimed Ms Gaughan knocked on his door 'seven days a week'. He said that he took a siesta every day at 2pm and alleged that Ms Gaughan called at that time on various days, asking for his help to fix electricity, water and so forth. Judge Kilrane asked him to get onto the events in question.

Mr Henry put it to him that he says there is only one event, the 26th. "I saw her on the beach and her two dogs were off the lead and my dog is never off his lead.

Her two dogs came up growling at my dog and me. I took my dog by the lead and I pulled out my video camera and recorded the audio." Mr Henry asked if he said anything and he replied 'can you put your dogs on a lead please?'. "She said 'they're grand.'

"They are vicious and the video will show exactly what happened. I've never called any woman a name," the defendant said.

Mr Henry asked if Ms Gaughan called him a druggie and an egghead and Stokes replied she was walking away and he couldn't understand her country accent. "In 15 years once I've seen her," he said.

Judge Kilrane said Stokes simply denies he said anything wrong to Ms Gaughan and despite talking about specific foul language, he said he never used any language on any woman. His case was that he never said these things, while the Prosecution's case was that he did.

Inspector Kilcoyne implied that if Stokes says he is on the beach every day of every year, then it's a credibility issue.

Stokes agreed it was a credibility issue and asked if the judge would see his video recording which was then played where he could be heard saying 'put your dogs on a lead', in the short recording.

Mr Henry called a witness, a Mr Terence Snee who alleged that on a later date Ms Gaughan was more confrontational, to which Inspector Kilcoyne asked him could he be more specific.

The witness said he didn't see any aggression between Stokes and Ms Gaughan, adding his dog is always on a lead.

Mr Henry said there was obviously a conflict of evidence in relation to the matter, saying his client said he only came across Ms Gaughan once and that she called him a druggie and an egghead, referring to his bald head and that the other incidents were fictitious.

Judge Kilrane said that on hearing the evidence he rejected Mr Stokes's and he was going to convict him on all matters.

The judge told Ms Gaughan she was entitled to give a Victim Impact Statement to the court.

Ms Gaughan said that she thought she was going to have to uproot from her home in Enniscrone because of the carry on that was going on from Stokes. "He wouldn't stop and I started going to different places to avoid him."

She told the judge she suffers from panic attacks and he asked if she lived on her own and she said yes. The court heard that Stokes had four previous convictions..

Mr Henry said his client's record speaks for itself. He asked the judge if he would consider Stokes's position in that he lives in the area and the incident surrounding the dogs was what caused the problem. He said his client undertakes to not engage with Ms Gaughan and would agree to keep the peace.

The judge said the manner in which the woman was subjected to the untruths told with the nonsense of her knocking on Stokes's door, of her being at his door was connected to pestering was a complete and utter fabrication.

"Mr Stokes was out with his Greyhound on a leash. The other two dogs were running around the place, playfully and harmlessly and while Mr Stokes is anxious to have the video shown, the video cuts off and Mr Stokes's video ceases, I don't know why.

"I would certainly consider binding him to the peace if Mr Stokes had any regard. But through all of his antics in court, he has no regard for any procedures.

"I think he feels mentally his capabilities are above others. He refers to Ms Gaughan that she speaks with a country accent. He shows contempt for others and his general attitude shows not the slightest evidence of remorse.

He convicted him and sentenced him to one month in prison for the February 25th charge, convicted him and sentenced him to one month in prison consecutively for the 'filthy and foul language on this woman' on February 26th and one month consecutive in prison for the February 28th charge and two months consecutive as the abuse continued on March 1st, a total of five months in prison.

Sligo Champion