A paranoid schizophrenic Australian who attacked two Welsh tourists in Dublin will spend 18 months in the Central Mental Hospital as part of a two-and-a-half-year sentence.
Michael Frith, aged 34, from South Australia, had told gardaí after his arrest that leading Republican activist, Mr Martin McGuinness, was his senior counsel and Mr Jim Davis, creator of the world-renowned ‘Garfield’ cartoon, was his solicitor.
He later pleaded guilty to two counts of assault causing harm to Mrs Patricia Bishop, aged 44, and to Mrs Valerie Canham, aged 64, both from Cardiff, Wales, on May 18, 2003 on South Leinster Street off Nassau Street in Dublin.
Judge Yvonne Murphy at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court ruled that Frith should be escorted by the Central Mental Hospital staff to a similar facility in Adelaide after 18 months.
Garda Alicia Doyle told prosecuting counsel, Ms Una Ní Raifeartaigh BL, that Frith’s attack on the women had been "totally unprovoked". They were walking with their husbands, Mr Nigel Bishop and Mr Bernard Canham, around 11.30pm when he attacked.
Gda Doyle said Frith went for the eyes of both women with his fingers. The women, aunt and niece, said they felt as if he was going to gouge their eyes out and had suffered fractures to their cheekbones and various parts of their faces as a result.
The Welsh couples happened to have been in the same public house, O’Sullivan’s on Westmoreland Street, as Frith earlier that night but there was no contact between them at all.
The couples, however, had noticed Frith when they came in because of his imposing physique and what they described as "striking" eyes. They also recalled that he had requested a song from the solo guitarist whose music heard from outside the pub had drawn them into the bar.
Gda Doyle said the Bishops and the Canhams left the bar around 10.30pm and were walking towards the Mont Clare Hotel, where they were staying for the weekend, when they saw Frith on the opposite side. He crossed over to their side and suddenly set upon the two women.
Before he left the scene, he was heard saying that one of the two women had eaten her dinner with his fork. Gda Doyle said this was unsubstantiated remark as the couples had not had dinner at the same place as Frith.
Gda Doyle said gardaí realised there was something mentally unstable about Frith when he began making remarks about Mr McGuinness and Mr Davis during interviews after he was arrested, with the help of CCTV footage from the street, the following day.
Attempts were made to contact Mr McGuinness on his behalf but he refused to speak to Frith who also told gardaí he was planning to go to the north to meet Mr McGuinness in the near future.
Gda Doyle said Frith also claimed that he had several issues to take up with Queen Elizabeth II of England about whom he said he was planning to complain "to the head of the United States".
Mr Luan Ó Braonáin BL, for Frith, said that since being taken into custody after the incident his client had spent most of the time at the Central Mental Hospital. He was on medication and he had come to the stage where he recognised what he had done was wrong.
Judge Murphy had adjourned the sentence hearing last week to "think about the matter" after being told by Ms Ní Raifeartaigh that sending Frith back to Australia would involve two voluntary actions by Frith to ensure the arrangements could be properly carried out.
He needed to go to his GP voluntarily and he needed to accede to being committed to a mental institution. Ms Ní Raifeartaigh also noted that Irish courts would not have the means of knowing whether the instructions are carried out once he is back in Australia.
Nor, she said, could the courts enforce a suspended sentence if he did not follow the instructions as there was no way of having him brought back to Ireland should he be in breach of the conditions accompanying such a sentence.