Friday, May 05, 2023

Fiona Ferguson

A father who threatened a Tusla social worker while serving a suspended sentence for child cruelty has avoided a jail term for a second time.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the man (36), who cannot be named to protect the children’s identities, told the social worker she would “end up in a hole in the ground”.

The man pleaded guilty to making a threat to kill or cause serious harm to the Tusla worker on January 20th, 2022. He has nine previous convictions, including one conviction for child cruelty imposed in April 2021, for which he received a one-year suspended sentence.

Judge Martin Nolan said although the threats had been believed by the injured party, he did not think the man had any intention of carrying them out. He said he thought the invective was the product of frustration, although no one was entitled to threaten anyone in this way.

He said he did not think he would be justified in imprisoning the man and imposed a three-year suspended sentence. He warned the man that the “most minor infraction” would result in prison.

He adjourned a hearing in relation to the activation of the sentence for the earlier case for two weeks.

A prosecuting garda told Olan Callanan BL, prosecuting, that the social worker employed by Tusla attended at the home of the former partner of the accused man to discuss an upcoming case conference in relation to the welfare of the children.

The children’s mother became agitated and rang the accused man. She put him on loudspeaker, and he was aggressive and threatening to the Tusla worker. The woman left with a colleague and went to a Garda station to report the incident.

Voice message

While there, she received calls and a voice message directly to her own phone from the accused.

During the voice message, the accused man told the woman she was causing nothing but problems for him and told her to get away from his family, or he would “kill you stone dead”. He also said she would “end up in a hole in the ground”, and that he would “put a bullet in your head”.

“You are after driving me to this,” he told her, “I am giving you a choice to get out of our lives, or I will take you out of our lives.” The message lasted one minute and 10 seconds.

The woman no longer works with Tusla, and a victim impact statement was handed into court on her behalf. Counsel outlined that the incident had a very profound effect on the victim, changing the way she went about her life.

He said she had been dealing with the family for some time and had been there keeping an eye on them due to the man’s previous conviction.

The garda agreed with Simon Matthews BL, defending, that there had been a tense atmosphere in the house on the day. He said the social worker had apologised for a remark she made during an interaction with the eldest son when she asked him if he was trying to be a gangster.

Mr Matthews said the children’s mother had taken this badly and contacted the accused, who made the threats. He said the accused was remorseful and apologetic.

Counsel said his client said during an interview that he did not mean the threats, and the woman had nothing to fear from him. He acknowledged that the woman had been there at the time for his children.

Mr Matthews said his client knows he let many people down on that day and speaks of being a better role model. He is in employment and engaging with the children who are doing well in the family home.

Counsel asked the court to take into account his client’s remorse, guilty plea and that there have been no further breaches. The mother of the children was in court to support him.

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