Third person in country to be sentenced for coercive control

Defence says man had been in custody since last September and been in 'a bad way, mental-health wise' at the time of arrest
Third person in country to be sentenced for coercive control

Paul Harkin pleaded guilty to knowingly and persistently engaging in behaviour that was controlling or coercive. File picture

A 49-year-old man will be sentenced in June for using coercion to control his former partner, sometimes in front of their children.

Paul Harkin, from Esker, Shanore, Kilchreest, Loughrea, is the first person in Galway, and the third in the country, to face sentence for the relatively new offence of coercion under the Domestic Violence Act 2018.

Harkin first appeared in custody before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in January, when he pleaded guilty to knowingly and persistently engaging in behaviour that was controlling or coercive on a date unknown between June 24 and August 13 last year at an unknown location, which had a serious effect on a woman who is or was his spouse. The behaviour was such that a reasonable person would consider it likely to have a serious effect on a relevant person, contrary to section 39 (1) and (3) of the Domestic Violence Act, 2018.

Following his arrest last year, he was also charged with three counts of threats to kill, two of cruelty towards his children, one of assault causing harm, and two counts of causing criminal damage.

Geri Silke, for the State, told the court in January that the plea over the coercive control charge was acceptable to the State on a full-facts basis in relation to the other charges — apart from the charge relating to child cruelty as the accused accepted the coercive control happened on occasion in front of the children and that this had affected them.

Paul Carroll, defending, said Harkin had been in custody since last September and had been in “a bad way, mental-health wise” at the time of his arrest.

Since going into custody, he had come under the care of the Central Mental Hospital; things had improved for him and he was taking medication now, Mr Carroll said.

Mr O’Carroll said in January that his client could be remanded in custody until his sentence hearing today, which had been adjourned for the preparation of a psychiatric report and a probation report on the man.

Mr Carroll told the court today, however, that sentence could not go ahead as the probation officer had not seen the psychiatric report prior to preparing the probation report now before the court.

Counsel also said his client had not pleaded guilty to charges of alleged child cruelty and would be denying them.

Judge McCabe agreed to adjourn sentencing to June 8 and directed an up-to-date report from the Probation Service and that it be given a copy of the psychiatric report from Harkin’s treating psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital.

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