Kildare court hears alternative versions of night of Athy assault

Evidence of comments to defendant's girlfriend contested

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Kildare court hears alternative versions of night of Athy assault

The case was heard at Naas District Court on Wednesday

The events of a night out in Athy were heard during a trial of a man who was charged with an assault another man and fracturing his jaw.

Sean Clare, 23, with an address listed as The Turrett, Castlerheban, Athy was charged with assaulting Simon Bowden on February 28, 2016 at the Crom A Boo Bridge in Athy.

Mr Bowden gave evidence before Judge Bernadette Owens on Wednesday, January 30 that he was walking home from the pub at about 12.30am when he was approached by a man from the side who struck him in the face.

He fell outwards onto the street, he told the court and saw a man walking over the bridge. He said he followed the man into a local chipper where he confronted him and a row broke out again.

That ended after a while and the man went home. The next morning he had significant pain in his jaw, and subsequently sought treatment for it. It was confirmed in hospital that it was fractured.

Representing the defendant, barrister Willie Hughes clarified for the court that his client was only being charged over the punch on the bridge and not what happened in the takeaway.

Mr Bowden gave evidence that in the weeks that followed he became aware of the identity of his assailant, the defendant, and the two families met in the Clonard Court, where he sought assistance with the medical bill.

Mr Bowden said that the defendant told him that if he went to the Gardai he would say that Mr Bowden sexually harassed his girlfriend. An apology was discussed, Mr Bowden said, and was not given.

“Your jaw will heal, take it to court if you want to, and we’ll fight again after,” he claimed the defendant said.

In cross examination by Willie Hughes, Mr Bowden denied he had spoken to the defendant prior to the assault on the bridge. He admitted that he had gone to Andersons pub at 2pm that day to watch a rugby international.

He said he didn’t know how much he had drank but assured the court that he had his wits about him as he was leaving. Counsel asked him if he had spoken to anyone in the pub, and he said that being from the town, he knew and had spoken to many.

Counsel asked if he had spoken any females, “in particular, a young blond Polish girl”. Mr Bowden said that she was there with her friends, as was he.

“I put it to you that you did approach her and did have a conversation with her,” counsel said, adding that the witness had made “very inappropriate comments and suggestions to her”.

Mr Hughes said that his client would say that he had left Andersons bar that night because he was upset that his girlfriend was upset at what Mr Bowden had said to her.

Mr Bowden denied making inappropriate comments to the woman, although he did admit saying, in the meeting with the parents in the hotel “If I wasn’t so drunk you wouldn’t have knocked me down”.

“You’re saying you were assaulted for no good reason?” Mr Hughes put to him. Mr Bowden agreed.

The court heard that Mr Bowden is 6’1 tall.

Lilly Bowden, his mother, gave evidence of discovering her son the following morning in pain. She recounted efforts that were made to get x-rays and the treatment of his injury.

Garda Niall O’Loughlin gave evidence of investigating the matter and in particular taking a statement from the defendant, in which Mr Clare claimed that Mr Bowden asked the defendant’s girlfriend for oral sex, and that the couple left Andersons and went to the CI bar afterwards because Mr Clare “didn’t want any trouble”.

Later, having left the CI bar to go to a chipper, they encountered Mr Bowden once again on the bridge who, according to the statement, made a further comment about the defendant’s girlfriend.

Mr Clare says he remarked: “Would you ever f**k off and leave us alone”.

He said that Mr Bowden responded “what are you going to do about it?” and alleged that Mr Bowden struck him a glancing blow.

Mr Clare’s statement said that he was scared for his life at that point, given that Mr Bowden was much taller than him.

He struck back, an action he said in his statement that he regretted, saying that it was not in his nature to be violent or aggressive.

In the witness box Mr Clare confirmed the details of his statement - that he and his girlfiend had left Andersons to avoid trouble and that later than night they met with Mr Bowden again, who made a comment to Mr Clare’s girlfriend and he challenged him over it, which lead to Mr Bowden striking out at Mr Clare, who retaliated.

Mr Clare emphasised that this was a matter of self-defence. He feared that Mr Bowden would beat him up and he was scared.

“He’s a big lad. I was afraid,” he told Judge Bernadette Owens. “I was afraid he’d hit me again.”

Mr Clare's then girlfriend, and now fiance, Julia, gave evidence of Mr Bowden approaching her and was speaking inappropriately to her. She confirmed that the couple left the bar to avoid trouble and how later they had encountered Mr Bowden again on the bridge.

At that point, she told the court, Mr Bowden said “I’ll hit you up tonight,” which she took to mean that he wanted to meet her again that night.

She backed up Mr Clare’s evidence that he remonstrated with Mr Bowden who responded by hitting him followed by Mr Clare punching him back.

Mr Hughes emphasised the nature of the interaction to Judge Owens, and characterised it as a man being in fear as he was confronted with a larger man.

“Are you suggesting that small men can’t fight,” Judge Owens asked him,

“Oh they certainly can,” he responded, saying he’d seen plenty of it on a hurling pitch, but he added that his life experience was that small men tended not to start a fight with bigger men.

Judge Owens considered the matter over lunch and when she returned she said that she noted that the issue of self-defence was not raised in the meeting between the parents. She also noted that the defendant had taken nine months to make a statement to Gardai.

“I thought he would be very anxious to attend to the garda station to set the matter straight.”

She said that she had no reason to disbelieve the evidence of the girlfriend, and believed the defendant became angry and took matters into his own hands.

And on that basis she found him guilty.

Mr Clare has no previous convictions. Mr Hughes said that his client was of previous good character and never engaged in substance abuse.

Judge Owens adjourned the matter back to April 4 and suggested that the defendant seriously apply his mind to the matter of compensation. She suggested he start with €2,500.