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Judge rejects HSE paramedic's application to reverse guilty plea to assaulting two students

It is now 10 months since Andrew Long pleaded guilty to the offences.

A JUDGE HAS rejected a HSE paramedic’s application to reverse his guilty plea to assaulting two female first aid students when he placed them in a choke hold six years ago.

At Ennis Circuit Court today, Judge Gerald Keys rejected the claim by Andrew Long (36) that he was put under undue pressure to plead guilty or that emotional reasoning was used to entice a plea of guilt.

Judge Keys told Long: “I am fully satisfied that your guilty plea was an acknowledgement of your guilt having been fully advised by your solicitor and by your junior and senior counsel.

I believe that it was a carefully thought out decision made by you when at the time you were fully capable of making such a decision.

In his judgement, Judge Keys told Long: “You have failed to show good and substantial reasons why this court should now allow change your plea from guilty to not guilty.”

It is now 10 months since Long pleaded guilty to the offences and he was initially due to be sentenced last July when he first gave notice that he wanted to change his plea.

Long has remained on bail during that time and he will now be on bail for one year after Judge Keys said that sentencing in the case will take place on 9 April after ordering a probation report in the case.

Judge Keys further remanded Long on bail to that date and in the case Long is facing a jail term up to five years after pleading guilty to the assault causing harm against Mary Nihill contrary to Section 3 of the Offences Against the Person Act.

In the case, Long of Carraig Dubh, Tobertaosceain, Ennis knocked mother of one, Mary Nihill out and rendered her unconscious with his choke hold and Nihill was in court today for the day-long application.

Long’s second assault victim, mother of three, Elise McMahon from Broadford and she also attended the course the same night and was seven months pregnant at the time.

In evidence, during the trial, Nihill recalled how Long knocked her out during an evening Civil Defence first aid class at the Vocational Education Centre in Scarriff in March 2013.

Nihill told the court that after the incident “I was in shock. I thought I was in safe hands with a professional paramedic. He tried to knock me out – he did knock me out.”

I was choking and slipping on the chair and telling him to stop. I wanted to go out, but I couldn’t escape.

Long’s second assault victim, McMahon told the court that Long put his arm wrapped around her neck from behind.

She said: “My airwaves were cut off. I was conscious, but literally, I couldn’t talk. I had no voice. It was the weirdest feeling. It scared me. The only way to stop was to push my body forward.”

At the hearing where Long was seeking to change his plea last November, counsel for the State, Philip Rahn BL told him that he has told “a mixture of plain nonsense, half-truths and lies” in seeking to change his guilty plea to ‘not guilty’.

Rahn told Long: “I have to suggest to you that you pleaded guilty because you are guilty.”

In response, Mr Long said: “I’m not guilty.”

Rahn told him: “You reached a point where the road had run out for you and you were advised how the trial had run. You pleaded guilty to try to avoid going into custody after a guilty verdict had been returned and you didn’t want to take the risk.”

Long told the court that he was ill at the thought of entering his guilty plea in court last March.

Long told the court last November: “I thought I was going to vomit – that is why I paused (when pleading guilty).”

Asked why he thought he was going to vomit, Long said: “At the thought of pleading guilty to something I didn’t do.”

In an affidavit read out in court, Long said that in the consultation room with his legal team prior to changing his plea to guilty, he said: “My brain is Swiss cheese lads – you are asking me to go to jail for something I didn’t do.”

Long said that in the consultation room with his lawyers, he said: “I was visibly frozen in fear and I remember getting pins and needles in my right shoulder and down my right upper arm.”

Long claimed that he “was put under a continuing and unrelenting barrage of duress” to change his plea.

Long’s claims of duress were fully denied by his former solicitor in the case, William Cahir who was in court today for Judge Keys’ judgement.