A man who was drunk on a flight landing in Cork verbally abused a teacher on a school tour as ‘a paedophile’ and when questioned about the matter he struck an immigration officer on the face with his passport.
Alan Leahy of 27 Ashmount Mews, Silversprings, Cork, denied assaulting Garda James Ahern on April 29 2018 at Cork Airport and also denied engaging in threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour and being drunk and a danger.
The contested case went on at Cork District Court for almost two hours. However, after seeing all of the CCTV of the incidents, Leahy changed his plea to guilty to all charges.
Judge Colm Roberts said, “You cannot encourage guards being assaulted, it is a serious matter.
“We cannot endorse or minimise the type of insults and injuries he caused to the teacher who was doing his job. There is a serious possibility of a custodial sentence.”
Defence solicitor, Diarmuid Kelleher, said Leahy, 36, was now apologising for his behaviour saying that it did not excuse it but it might explain it to some degree to say that he had been drinking heavily in the course of a long day over a train journey and two flights.
“It does appear to be out of character,” Mr Kelleher said, adding that from the point of view of future travel Alan Leahy would be extremely anxious to avoid a conviction for assaulting a garda.
Garda Ahern initially thought the teacher and the defendant were in an argument with each other but the guard later approached the teacher to say he was sorry that he had gotten this impression.
“I saw Alan Leahy coming out of the toilet. I told him of the complaint I was looking into and said to come back to the immigration office. He took his passport out of his pocket and struck me on the head with his hand that his passport was in… He had to be physically restrained after he hit me. He was physically obstructive and a danger to other passengers and to himself,” Garda Ahern testified.
Judge Roberts said he would give the defendant the benefit of a dismissal of the assault charge on a €1,250 contribution to the Garda Benevolent Fund. He fined him €750 for the threatening comments to the teacher and €250 for being drunk and a danger.
“The insult (to the teacher) was a groundless, malicious, grotesque and deeply offensive comment which should not have been used even if he thinks it is a funny thing to say, which it is not,” Judge Roberts said.
The secondary school teacher was on a flight arriving in Cork at 10 pm on April 29 2018 with several other teachers and 65 boys aged 14 or 15.
After the boys left the plane the teacher remained with one other student and they walked through the aisle checking to see if any boy had left a phone or passport or present behind.
The teacher said, “Another person on the flight said, ‘keep away from him, he is only a paedophile’. The man kept passing remarks. It was bawdy and it seemed to be trying to rise me in front of a youngster. My main thing was to get the boys home so that their stories would be good when they would get home.
“He kept at it. I was feeling nervous and edgy myself. If I was to say, ‘leave me alone, I am doing my job,’ the boys would pick up on that. I slowed down to let him pass but that did not work. The comments kept coming,” the teacher said.
At the garda kiosk in the immigration section the teacher was assisting a boy who was showing his passport to the guard on duty and the defendant interrupted again and said, ‘Don’t listen to the paedophile’.