Man jailed for threatening to kill woman with crossbow, mugging and stealing handbag

The judge accepted the man abused alcohol and drugs, had a difficult childhood, had little education and very little structure in his life.

A WEXFORD FATHER of three who threatened an acquaintance with a crossbow has been jailed for this, mugging a woman and stealing a handbag from an elderly lady.

John Stokes (25) of Beachside, Riverchapel, Gorey had only been released from a five year jail term when he came to Mary Kate McDonagh’s friend’s home armed with two carving knives.

He terrified the woman but she managed to get Stokes out of the house. He returned, this time armed with a bow and arrow. Stokes pushed the metal arrow through the letterbox and although he held onto it he told Ms McDonagh he would “stick you to the wall”.

The woman was terrified and believed she would be killed if Stokes let the arrow go. He left a short time later.

Stokes pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to production of a crossbow while threatening to kill Ms McDonagh at Pearse House, Pearse Street, Dublin on 28 December 2014.

He also pleaded to robbing a handbag at Clyde Court, Ballsbridge on 24 January 24 2015 and to stealing a handbag a Baggot Street Lower on 19 February 2015.

Stokes has 48 previous convictions mostly for road traffic offences but which include theft, robbery, false imprisonment, burglary and possession of knives.

Detective Garda Anthony Gilleran told Noel Devitt BL, prosecuting that after he was arrested for the offence Stokes said his life was under threat and he was in fear of being shot. He was using cocaine and tablets, the court heard.

A victim impact report before the court said that Ms McDonagh and Stokes have since “made their peace”.

Judge Melanie Greally sentenced Stokes to five and half years in prison with the final 18 months suspended on condition that he engage with the probation service for two years upon his release.

She said each offence was serious in its own right and each had “nasty elements”.

The judge accepted that Stokes had abused alcohol and drugs, had a difficult childhood, had little education and very little structure in his life.

She said it was no surprise that he relapsed very quickly back into criminality as there was no post release supervision order in place when he got out of jail in December 2014.

Judge Greally acknowledged that Stokes has since tried to “arrest the tide of criminality”, engaged in a local community project and removed himself from the company of his negative peers.

David Staunton BL, defending said Stokes was a member of the travelling community and one of 12 children. He had a difficult upbringing and left school at an early age.

He said Stokes was a father of three young children and asked the judge to accept he was capable of “demonstrating some reform”. A probation report before the court concluded that Stokes was at a moderate risk of re-offending.

Additional evidence of crimes 

Garda Patrick O’Brien said Stokes knocked Deirdre Walsh to the ground and robbed her mobile phone and handbag. CCTV captured the assault and the attacker making off in a car with three alloy wheels.

Gardai spotted the car a few days later and arrested the driver, who was Stokes. In an interview he made admissions and told gardaí that “it wouldn’t have happened if it were not for the drugs”.

Ms Walsh was left with a black eye and a bruised face and her victim impact statement said she was embarrassed for some time after the mugging because of her injuries. She said in her statement that “the memory of the incident will have an enduring effect on me”.

On 19 February, 2015 an elderly couple Patricia and Clive Carroll were walking at midnight on their way home from a night at the Gaiety theatre when Ms Carroll felt someone tugging at her handbag.

She turned to see Stokes running off to a waiting getaway car. The couple gave chase and were later able to give gardaí a good description and part registration of the vehicle.

Garda Lee Gavin said he and a colleague spotted Stokes and another man sitting in the vehicle later that same evening. The men were riffling through a handbag and as soon as they saw gardaí the other man drove off.

Following a short chase Stokes was arrested. He made no admissions in the interview and was aggressive towards gardaí.

The handbag and its contents were returned to Ms Carroll. Garda Gavin said it was clear from the victim impact statement that the victim was a very admirable and resilient woman.

He said she was much more aware when she was out and about now that she could be a victim of crime.

Read: Health Board knew girl was being sexually abused in her home but didn’t tell gardaí>

Declan Brennan and Sonya McLean
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