A judge has convicted controversial horse racing figure Stephen Mahon of assaulting a farmer with a horse whip.
At Gort District Court on Thursday, Judge Mary Larkin convicted the former horse trainer of the assault causing harm to farmer John Hughes on a Co Galway boreen in October 2020.
Judge Larkin also convicted Mr Mahon of producing a horse whip in the course of a dispute which was capable of inflicting serious injury and likely to intimidate another on October 13, 2020, at the same location at Newtown, Kilcolgan, Co Galway.
That charge is contrary to Section 11 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act.
The court was told there was “bad blood’ between 53-year-old father of two Mr Mahon and Mr Hughes arising from a 2014 incident involving the two.
In June of last year, Mr Mahon, formerly of The Ranch, Kilcolgan, Co Galway, but now living in Co Meath, was given the longest ban at four years ever handed out to a trainer in Ireland for breach of animal welfare rules.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board ban was reduced by six months on appeal in September of last year.
In the case before Gort District Court, Mr Hughes told the court that on October 13, 2020, on his way back from herding cattle, Mr Mahon passed him on a horse on a boreen.
Mr Hughes said: “Mr Mahon went on six or seven yards and said what the f**k are you laughing at. He got down off his horse and asked what are you smiling at.
“He then left fly and hit me with the whip on the left hand side of the face just under my eye.”
Mr Hughes said the whip was 18in long and Mr Mahon hit him with the ball end of the whip. The whip with the red ball top was produced as a Garda exhibit in court.
He said Mr Mahon “then swung a second time. I put my hand up to protect myself and he got me on the knuckle and the left hand side of the face.
“I then rushed him. My eye was weeping like hell at this stage. I pushed him against the gate and in doing so knocked a couple of stones off a pillar.”
The complainant said “there was a bit of a struggle” and Mr Mahon got free and kicked out at him twice.
Mr Hughes said he had been left with a scar from a whip blow and pointed out the scar on his face to Judge Larkin.
He said he had not spoken to Mr Mahon since 2014 and agreed there was "bad blood" between himself and Mr Mahon.
Mr Mahon denied he assaulted Mr Hughes and in evidence alleged Mr Hughes threw two rocks at him at the location.
In finding Mr Mahon guilty of the two offences, Judge Larkin said it was not a case of one man’s word against another.
“There is also the evidence of the injuries to Mr Hughes. They were viewed by Garda Phil O'Donoghue on the day and they are consistent with Mr Hughes’s evidence," the judge said.
“I am satisfied that the incident did take place as described by Mr Hughes. I found him to be a credible witness and I found Mr Mahon to be vague and possibly inventive in relation to what he said about the incident.”
Counsel for Mr Mahon, Ernest White BL, told Judge Larkin that Mr Mahon “is an ex horse trainer as you may well know. He has lost his licence and he tells me his life has been turned upside down over the past year with the loss of his licence and his livelihood."
Mr White said Mr Mahon has two young children and has moved back to Meath, where he is trying to get some work in the horse business.
Inspector Brian Boland of Loughrea Garda Station told the court Mr Mahon has 14 previous convictions but none relate to assault or public order. Insp Boland said six relate to the Control of Dogs Act, with the remainder relating to road traffic matters.
Mr White said that there has been no further incidents between the two men since October 2020.
Judge Larkin said she would adjourn sentencing to allow Mr Hughes provide a victim impact statement to court.
“I would be interested to know what the views of the injured party are and does he believe that this is all water under the bridge,” she said.
Judge Larkin adjourned the case to October 27 for sentence.