In October 2021, Brendan Kelleher of Drumlish Hill, Drumlish, Co Longford, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison with the final year and nine months suspended.
A bail application was granted in January to allow Mr Kelleher to undergo residential treatment at Cuain Mhuire in Athenry. He completed 11 weeks of treatment but, with just four days remaining at the facility, he was asked to leave following a public order incident.
Mr Kelleher appeared in Longford Circuit Court on May 17, where Sergeant Aisling Flynn gave evidence that he was intoxicated in court and Judge Johnson finding a ‘flagrant breach’ of conditions, l remanded in custody until May 26.
On learning that the defendant had returned home after being asked to leave Cuain Mhuire in April, Judge Johnson expressed his displeasure at the “ignorance” of suspended sentences and bail conditions in the treatment centers.
“He was supposed to do nine months in jail,” Judge Johnson said.
“We are here to impose sentences and we are constitutionally appointed to do so, and then someone makes a decision like that.
“The situation was quite clear. He was to serve nine months before being released and he was to go directly into residential treatment upon his release.
Garda Detective Damien McGovern testified in court that Mr Kelleher only came to the attention of Garda after leaving the establishment on May 12, when he was arrested for producing a hammer during a dispute in the town of Longford.
“At 3 p.m. I was walking through town and heard an argument ahead of me,” Detective Gda McGovern said.
“I saw a male coming towards another male with a sled and I stood between them. Mr Kelleher said the other man hit the side of his van, but there was more to it.
“I asked him if he wanted to tell me more so we could deal with it and he said ‘you’re the investigator, you’ll find out’.”
The court heard that after his release from Cuain Mhuire on April 22, Mr Kelleher returned straight to his parents’ home in Drumlish where he helped his father on the farm until he was arrested by Detective Gda McGovern May 12.
“So he was three weeks free. The conditions of his bail were that he return to prison and he did not. He just left and that’s it. I have to start getting stricter with the terms of conditional sentences,” Judge Johnson said.
“It’s outrageous that he was given the opportunity to go and rehabilitate and then he was deported and no one told the Gardaí that he was free.
“I will have to be stricter on these conditions. When treatment centers do not inform Gardaí of the departure of these people, it is simply not enough. The order was very clear that he was to be released on bail to complete his residential treatment and return to prison upon completion.
“A copy of this order was given to Cuain Mhuire and anyone who needed to know should have known. I find it very concerning that a court order was completely ignored. It’s scandalous.
Defense attorney Niall Flynn told the court that in the three weeks prior to his arrest he had not been involved in any crime.
“Good to know,” an outraged Judge Johnson said, “it was very good of him to stay out of trouble when he wasn’t supposed to be out at all. He was arrested on May 12 Where was he until May 17, when he was so drunk you couldn’t get any instruction?
Detective Gda McGovern informed the court that Mr Kelleher was at his home in Drumlish on those days.
“He should have been taken back to jail as soon as he was apprehended by you,” Judge Johnson said.
Taking the witness stand, Mr Kelleher explained in court that he had attended Cuain Mhuire for treatment a total of eight times but it was not working for him.
He asked Judge Johnson for ‘one more chance’ to visit a clinic in Kilkenny where he would have an implant placed which would make him physically ill if he took a drink.
He explained that on the day he was asked to leave the treatment centre, he was brought to Galway for laser eye treatment. When he left the clinic, there was no one to pick him up, so he went to get himself a drink.
He also informed the court that he had attended AA meetings in Longford and Mullingar since being released from treatment, and that he planned to do a green certificate with Teagasc so that he could take over the family farm after his father had back surgery. .
“I beg and plead that if I was only a few weeks old, I would get the implant. If I go back to prison, my father will have to return the farm and there will be nothing for me when I get out,” he said.
“Prison is not good for me. There’s more booze and drugs in jail than I could get on the street. I beg you and beg you not to send me back to prison. All the problems I have encountered are entirely due to alcohol.
Judge Johnson, expressing his disappointment, said he was tired of giving Mr Kelleher chances.
“I’m at my wit’s end with you. I gave you every chance. I bent over backwards to make it easy for you and you threw it in my face,” he said. “What’s the point of me giving conditional sentences if people don’t know the terms?”
“If you give me one more chance, you won’t see me again,” Kelleher said.
“If you were sitting where I am sitting, after giving someone every chance, what would you expect from me?” Judge Johnson asked.
Mr. Flynn, on behalf of the defense, asked Judge Johnson to refrain from activating the suspended sentence and to give Mr. Kelleher “another opportunity to obtain the implant, to obtain his green certificate and take over the family farm”.
“I am very surprised that he was not told about this implant before if he went through Cuain Mhuire eight times,” Judge Johnson said.
“I have no confidence that Mr. Kelleher will stay sober. He just can’t control himself. I’m afraid that even when he was sober he resorted to a sledgehammer.
“I don’t take the decision I’m taking now lightly. I will not finalize today but I will put him back in detention until July 25 with freedom to reinstate. He can be released for the insertion of this implant, but return to detention for three or four weeks after that to see how he is doing.
“I leave the light at the end of the tunnel. He doesn’t deserve it. But I am aware that alcoholism is a disease.