All-Star camogie player Ashling Thompson avoided criminal convictions for assaulting two young women at a nightclub in Cork on her undertaking to pay €6,000 to family refuge charities and to cover witness expenses.
Judge Con O’Leary said he could not understand the media fascination with the case.
Judge O’Leary said: “If paid it will disappear. No convictions. It disappears into a fog. There is no Probation Act, no strike-out. It can only be re-entered if the money is not paid (by September 30).”
Ashling Thompson entered pleas of guilty through her solicitor, Eddie Burke, to charges of assaulting Aoife O’Flaherty and Jennifer Coakley on February 25, 2018, at Secret Garden, Rearden’s, Washington Street, Cork.
A sum of €1,000 is to be paid to Cuan Lee, €2,500 to Edel House and expenses of €2,000 to Ms Coakley and €500 to Ms O’Flaherty.
Judge O’Leary said: “It is finished today as far as the court is concerned. It can only be re-entered if €6,000 is not paid.
“It may appear that what I am doing is relatively lenient.
"I cannot understand the level of attention from the media in relation to this. Maybe I am out of touch. I cannot understand what the fascination is that brings so many of the media to court.”
The judge said he was taking account of Mr Burke’s submission that Ms Thompson had suffered deep humiliation and had suffered the loss of sports sponsorships as a result of the case. The judge also took account of some “quite unpleasant” social media commentary.
“Enough is enough as far as I am concerned. If paid it will disappear,” Judge O’Leary said.
Mr Burke said that money would be paid by September 30 and Ms Thompson gave that sworn undertaking. Failure to pay the €6,000 by that date would put her at risk of imprisonment for contempt of court, the judge warned.
Speaking outside the court afterwards with Ms Thompson, Mr Burke said: “This is a regrettable incident. She is a very young lady who has brought honour to her county. She has done a lot of good work pro bono.”
Asked if she would be back playing in a Cork jersey soon, Mr Burke said: “I am hoping she will.”
The incidents at the Secret Garden in February 2018 occurred after a day when the 29-year-old left her home in Charleville, County Cork, at 8am played a match in Offaly, returned to Cork and drank alcohol that night without having had food during the day.
Inspector Seán McCarthy said Aoife O’Flaherty was punched in the back of the head by Ms Thompson and did not seek medical attention.
Judge O’Leary noted that between the garda summary, the injured party’s statement and the separate victim impact statement there were differences in terms of the build-up to the incident.
In one version it appeared that she was punched without warning and in another, there was an initial altercation followed by the punch.
In the other assault 90 minutes earlier, Ms Coakley previously testified that Ashling Thompson injured her by elbowing her in the jaw. She said she had come home to Cork from Abu Dhabi where she rides horses for the royal family.
Ms Coakley said she had a suspected hairline fracture to her jaw but did not follow up with medical attention as she had travelled to Abu Dhabi.
Inspector James Hallahan summarised what happened at 2.44am that morning in the nightclub.
“The defendant was speaking with a male. Jennifer Coakley was standing nearby and she began speaking to the male. She (Thompson) struck out with her right elbow and contacted her face doing damage to same – it was superficial,” Insp. Hallahan said.
Judge O’Leary said to the injured party: “The evidence is that you were not minding your own business and that you started talking to the man.” Ms Coakley replied that she knew the man and that they were all in one group but that she did not know Ms Thompson before this.
Solicitor, Mr Burke said there were a number of complications in the background precluding the possibility of Ms Thompson being given an adult caution at a garda station rather than being prosecuted for assault. He said one complication was the initial charge for assault causing harm – which was withdrawn by the State.
Mr Burke said on behalf of Ms Thompson: “I have no doubt her family have suffered more than anyone. Regardless of what she has achieved she may only be remembered for this.”
He said she had also lost some sports sponsorships as a result of the case and that media coverage of the case began long before she was even charged with anything.