A 43-year-old cleaner who "snapped" when slapping an 11-year-old girl across the face with his open hand after he saw the child pour liquid over his distressed wife has escaped a conviction.
In the case at Ennis District Court, father of one, Redas Jokna of Ballycasey Crescent, Shannon, pleaded guilty to the assault of the local child on September 8, 2018, at the SkyCourt shopping centre in Shannon.
However, Judge John King didn’t convict Mr Jokna and instead imposed the Probation Act and ordered him pay €500 to the Poor Box.
This was after gardaí confirmed that there was provocation before the assault and a number of businesses at the SkyCourt shopping centre provided letters of support for the Lithuanian.
Judge King told the court: “You can’t hit an 11-year old child no matter what.”
Both Mr Jokna and his wife work as cleaners for a cleaning firm at SkyCourt and solicitor for Mr Jokna, Tara Godfrey said that her client was subject “to severe provocation” while at work and ‘snapped’ when slapping the then 11-year-old girl.
Ms Godfrey said that there “had been a constant and consistent bullying of my client’s partner” by a group of youngsters frequenting SkyCourt and Mr Jokna took a distressed call on September 8 last year from his wife.
In a statement to Gardaí, Mr Jokna said that his wife was crying and distressed over the phone concerning a group of children and she told him “they are still abusing me”.
Mr Jokna said that he arrived near the food-court where he saw a girl pour water from a drink container on his wife’s head.
He said: “I asked them to leave and they said ‘you Polish* bastard, do you want some juice too?’
Mr Jokna said after the incident, one of the children started crying and they all walked out.
Mr Jokna told gardaí that his wife had juice on her chest and she had bits of pizza on her pants.
Ms Godfrey said that the provocation is continuing. She said that in an incident in June “inflated condoms were being thrown at Mr Jokna, words are being expressed to him and he was still then suffering quite an amount of abuse”.
She said that the 11-year-old injured party in the case jostled the shopping basket of Mr Jokna’s partner this week at Lidl in Shannon.
Sgt Aiden Lonergan said that the 11-year-old girl has opted not to provide a victim impact statement and the sergeant confirmed that there had been extreme provocation in the case.
Ms Godfrey said: “My client sincerely regrets what he did. He shouldn’t have done what he did. He knows absolutely what he did was wrong.”
Ms Godfrey said that a number of businesses at SkyCourt have provided references for Mr Jokna.
Ms Godfrey quoted one retailer who said in a letter: “I do not agree that Mr Jokna’s course of action was right or proper, however, I do know that there is a constant issue with young teenagers misbehaving in the centre being abusive to cleaning staff and security staff.”
Another retailer wrote to say: “We see Redas working incredibly hard despite sometimes having to deal with many challenging situations on a daily/weekly basis - abusive behaviour from young members of the public and people leaving the toilet in deplorable conditions.
Another reference described Mr Jokna as "very dependable, courteous and a diligent worker".
The letter stated that these young people have been troublesome and a constant nuisance to the centre for some time and were barred from the centre at the time of the incident in September last year.
Concerning the assault on the 11-year-old, Mr Jokna told gardaí: “I regret my actions, I am not proud of them.”
Ms Godfrey said that Mr Jokna has lived here for eight years and has no previous convictions and he and his partner have a 10-year-old child.
Ms Godfrey said that after the incident, the man informed his bosses but he didn’t lose his job.