A young man visiting Mahon Point Shopping Centre at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic coughed in an exaggerated manner into the face of a security officer.
James McDonagh denied a charge of assault arising out of the incident. However, Judge Marian O’Leary convicted him at Cork District Court.
Security officer Eoin McGuigan was working on the mall area of Mahon Point Shopping Centre on September 18, 2020.
It was alleged that the accused, James McDonagh, of 1 Inchera Close, Mahon, had been coughing on clothing in one of the stores and then had walked out onto the mall, where he was laughing with siblings.
McDonagh said he had not coughed on the clothing. He asked why he would do such a thing and said that would get him barred and that he had been back at the shop last week without any problem. He said he was in the shop that day to buy clothes for a wedding.
Inspector Gillian Sinnott put it to the defendant that he had coughed in an exaggerated manner into the face of Mr McGuigan.
“You are on the CCTV, you are laughing with your siblings. In relation to walking on the mall of the centre, you did an exaggerated cough onto Mr McGuigan,” Inspector Sinnott said.
The defendant, who is aged around 30, replied, “That is not a cough. It is a laugh and a joke. If people think that is a cough: Jesus Christ, I did not cough in his face.” The inspector said, “You had removed your mask?” He replied, “I could have.” She asked him again, “Did you?” And he replied, “Yes.”
The defendant said he would have a laugh and a joke with every security person in the centre and that the complainant was the only person who has a difficulty with him (the defendant). “No other security person has a difficulty with me,” McDonagh said.
Inspector Sinnott said that the only difficulty that the complainant had with the defendant was that McDonagh’s behaviour on the day put him in fear because it was during the pandemic.
Judge Marian O’Leary said that on the basis of the evidence, the State had proved its case and she convicted him on the assault charge, but dismissed the count of engaging in threatening behaviour.
Defence barrister Elaine Audley said the defendant had no previous conviction for assault or anything of that nature. She said that around this time he was going through a difficult experience and he had turned to drink. “I would ask the court to be merciful,” Ms Audley said.
Judge O’Leary put James McDonagh on a probation bond to comply with the directions of the service for the next 12 months.