A woman who assaulted a social worker outside a courthouse by “hitting him a slap” with an A4 notepad has received a conditional discharge.
Judge James McNulty said that while the assault on social worker Jimmy Rohan was of a minor nature, had gardaí not prosecuted it would have been a “dereliction of duty”.
Clonakilty District Court heard that the woman, who cannot be named because it would identify her children, had been in Clonakilty Courthouse on September 25 last and had left the building at approximately 12.45pm, after an order had been made which removed her two children from her care.
Giving evidence, Mr Rohan said he was outside the courthouse at the time, having not been involved in the woman’s case that day, and having attended regarding a child welfare application in a separate matter.
He told the judge that he saw the woman leaving, kicking bollards on the street. He then said he had his back turned when he felt himself being struck and pushed.
“I was quite shocked,” he said. “She pushed me and she hit me with the pad.”
He said the incident was “unprovoked” and that the woman had made a comment to him: “She made some comment like ‘you took away my children’.”
The incident was witnessed by Garda Donal McCormack, who intervened and who later harvested CCTV from the Clonakilty town system which showed the incident. This was then played for the judge in court.
Mr Rohan told the woman’s solicitor that he had been involved with the woman’s family at an earlier stage but not that day in the court proceedings. “I am here because somebody assaulted me,” he said.
Mr Rohan told the judge he was not injured in the incident but he was “taken aback”.
Garda McCormack said he had made “numerous” offers to the woman to submit a statement and had told her that she would likely benefit from an adult caution as she had no previous convictions, but she had declined to do so.
Giving evidence, the woman said of the incident: “It was just a notebook.”
She said she saw Mr Rohan “smirking” at her but the judge said in the CCTV footage it was clear he was facing away from her.
The woman said she did partly blame Mr Rohan for her children being removed from her care and that she had made a complaint about him and other Tusla social workers prior to the incident, which she said was currently with the Ombudsman.
Under questioning from Inspector Deborah Marsh, the woman said: “I tapped him. I wouldn’t say I hit him.
Judge McNulty said that the case was proven and that if anything, Mr Rohan had underplayed what had happened to him.
“The CCTV clearly shows a blow, not a heavy blow, but he was struck on the shoulder,” he said.
The judge said the woman had been “economical” in her evidence and added: “She hit him a slap”.
He said the court acknowledged several mitigating factors, such as the fact the woman had no previous convictions and that on the day she was angry at an adverse decision in the court, but this had nothing to do with Mr Rohan.
He also said an “enormous” amount of time and energy had been spent by social services to care for the two children involved, and he acknowledged the devotion of the woman’s own parents.
He granted her a conditional discharge on her own bond of €100 for the next two years, adding that it was a minor crime in the sight of a police officer on a public servant doing their duty, and a failure to prosecute would have been a “dereliction of duty”.