A Cork teenager who said he had Coronavirus as he spat at the face of a member of An Garda Síochána - after drinking up to 20 bottles of Budweiser - was ordered to do 240 hours of community service to avoid jail.
Sergeant Kevin Joyce said the garda who was assaulted had to go into isolation for 14 days as did his wife who is also a member of An Garda Síochána, in keeping with the health advice prevailing at that stage in the Covid-19 pandemic.
19-year-old Adam Olden of Leamlara Close, Togher, pleaded guilty to charges including assaulting the garda who was called to Olden’s home on March 29.
Judge Olann Kelleher took into consideration the fact that the accused had no previous convictions and he noted that the guard who was assaulted appeared to be speaking up for the defendant through Sgt. Joyce’s evidence.
“(The injured party) is upset and annoyed at what occurred. He also feels that given what he knows of this young man it was a one-off incident, it was a moment of reactive madness,” Sgt. Joyce said.
Judge Kelleher said, “He (the victim) is speaking up for him (Olden).” Sgt. Joyce replied, “He is annoyed. But he feels it also has an effect on this man and on his reputation going forward.”
Defence solicitor, Eddie Burke, said he knew from talking to the injured party that he was also aware that Olden “suffered from the wrath of social media and this is going to follow him for a number of years.”
Sgt. Joyce agreed with this observation in relation to the prevalence of social media commentary on Olden saying, “It is quite negative what is there. It will take quite a lot of effort from him to balance that.” Sgt. Joyce said there had been an issue going on between the teenager and his parents for a few weeks before this night when his parents called gardaí to their home in the early hours of March 29.
Olden later admitted that he had been drinking in his bedroom from 7p.m. that evening and had 18 to 20 bottles of Budweiser.
The most serious aspect of the evidence was the assault on the garda as Olden was being asked to leave the family home. “Without warning he spat at his face and neck and shouted he had Covid 19 and the garda would get it,” Sgt. Joyce testified.
Sgt. Joyce and other gardaí present restrained Olden and arrested him.
The sergeant said, “It took some time for it to dawn on him (Olden) the seriousness of what he had done. The following evening I did not feel he had grasped the gravity of what he had done.” However, the sergeant said the young man did agree voluntarily to be questioned.
Mr Burke said Olden was suffering from depression at the time of the incident and had written a letter of apology for his actions. He said:
He is extremely apologetic. This has been a great source of shame for himself and his parents.
Judge Kelleher said, “This is obviously a very serious offence – a most serious offence to come before the courts. It was a harrowing and upsetting time for the guard causing havoc for him and his family.” The judge said that while it merited a jail sentence, there were other factors to be taken into consideration including that there was a plea of guilty, an apology and no previous convictions.
Judge Kelleher said the accused could do 240 hours of community service instead of five months in prison if found suitable by the probation service. That was on the assault charge.
He fined him €300 for possessing cannabis on the night for his own use and imposed a two-month suspended sentence for engaging in threatening behaviour.
“I hope he does not underestimate how serious this is. If he misses one hour of work (of the 240 hours) he will do the five months in prison,” the judge warned.
When the matter was first in court Inspector Pat Murphy said the defendant had told gardaí that his comments about having Covid-19 were intended as “a joke” but he said that gardaí were treating the matter very seriously. Mr Burke said the defendant did not have Coronavirus at any time.