A homeless Laois man who caused a disturbance at the garda station while trying to retrieve his property, allegedly threatening gardaí by claiming he was a friend of crime boss John Gilligan and would get a gun to shoot a detective, has successfully defended himself against a public order charge after the local district court accepted he was having a mental health episode at the time.
Before a recent sitting of Portlaoise District Court was Paul Tynan (39), with an address at the caravan, Fr Brown Avenue, Clonminam Road, Portlaoise, charged with threatening or abusive behaviour, at Portlaoise Garda Station, on October 1, 2018.
Garda Kevin O’Sullivan gave evidence that on October 1, 2018, he was on duty at Portlaoise Garda Station when the accused entered the waiting area and asked to speak to a Garda Detective Ryan about property that had been seized by the gardaí.
Garda O’Sullivan said he told the accused that the detective was not available, to which the accused became abusive and irate.
“He said he was friends with John Gilligan and would travel to Dublin to get a gun to shoot Detective Ryan,” said Garda O’Sullivan, going on to say that the accused made threats to blow up the garda station.
Sgt Ingrid Moore gave evidence that she found the accused in an agitated state outside the garda station, making references to property that had been seized by the gardaí. She said the accused was taking black bags out of bins at the front of the station.
Sgt Moore told the court that the accused said the property in the bins was his and he would kill whoever had put it in the bin. Sgt Moore gave evidence that the accused mentioned John Gilligan and said he would get a gun.
The accused, who represented himself, asked Sgt Moore had his property been left outside the garda station before this incident.
“I have no recollection of property being there,” replied Sgt Moore.
Mr Tynan said the property included memorabilia of his deceased father and asked Sgt Moore who had put the bags in the bin.
“I can’t say who put those bags in the bin, I have no idea what the contents was,” replied Sgt Moore.
Sgt Paudie Teehan gave evidence that he saw the accused “rooting in wheelie bins” outside the station and removing black bin bags, claiming it was his property.
He said the accused placed the bin bags in a white van after removing them from the bin.
Sgt Teehan said the accused made threatening references to Det Ryan and claimed to be an acquaintance of John Gilligan.
“And he made a flippant remark to blowing up the garda station,” said Sgt Teehan.
Mr Tynan asked the witness had he noticed any property on the steps of the garda station during the three days prior to the incident. Sgt Teehan replied he did not remember seeing any black bin bags outside the station.
“Am I friends with John Gilligan?” asked Mr Tynan.
“I can’t comment,” said Sgt Teehan.
“Did you consider my threats serious?” asked Mr Tynan.
“You’re before the court on a public order charge,” replied Sgt Teehan.
Garda Donal Bigley gave evidence that he saw the accused in a very irate state outside the station. He said the accused dragged a bin outside the barrier of the garda station and removed a bag.
“He said it was his property and said that Det Ryan had put it there,” said Garda Bigley. “He said he was going to get a gun to take care of Det Ryan.”
Garda Bigley said the accused put the bin bags into a van which drove off, before the accused got on a bike and left the scene.
The accused gave evidence to the court that he has suffered with mental illnesses for the last 20 years. He said he served a prison sentence and had been “released into homelessness” in October 2017.
He claimed that the gardaí had taken all his property from his caravan, including his clothes and food, and thrown it outside the garda station along with his bicycle.
“They made a laugh of me and insisted that I bring it back to the caravan on my own,” he said.
He told the court he had made complaints to the Garda Ombudsman and had also brought a police property act before Portlaoise District Court.
“Judge Staines said the gardaí had no right to take my property,” he said.
“I did not threaten anybody,” he said, going on to say that he had been very tired and on very little medication at the time and did not remember who had been present.
He told the court that he suffers with paranoid schizophrenia, to which Judge Deirdre Gearty asked whether he felt this incident had been “an episode” of some sort.
“Yes, the mental health services have neglected me since I was released,” he said.
Inspector Brian Farrell asked him had he threatened to blow up the garda station.
“I don’t have any bombs,” replied Mr Tynan.
Insp Farrell asked him did he fully recall the incident, to which the accused replied in the negative.
In ruling, Judge Gearty said that none of the gardaí had given any evidence that any members of the public had been present at the time. She also asked whether the accused had been reckless in causing a breach of the peace, or had he intended to do so.
Saying that she considered him to have been reckless, Judge Gearty dismissed the prosecution against him.