The legal challenge in the Cork District Court case against a man accused of painting graffiti on headstones at a Republican plot in Cork’s St Finbarr’s cemetery was resolved by the High Court and the accused faced sentencing yesterday.
David Cooper, aged 52, who lives at an apartment at 7 Southern Rd, Cork, was back before Cork District Court to be sentenced on a charge of causing criminal damage by writing graffiti on headstones at the cemetery on March 28/29, 2014.
Evidence was given previously that the graffiti was daubed onto the headstones shortly before the Easter commemorations.
Full evidence was heard in the case. However, at the end of the trial, defence solicitor, Frank Buttimer, challenged the prosecution on the basis that no evidence had been given of a written statement of complaint by the owner of the property.
Judge Olann Kelleher agreed to have a question put to the High Court by way of what is called ‘case stated’ addressing the issue of whether the case should fall in the absence of proof of ownership, where the relevant legislation seemed to suggest that the prosecution did not have to prove it. Judge Kelleher noted yesterday that the issue had been resolved by the High Court last week in favour of the prosecution.
Judge Kelleher said now that Cooper was convicted of the offence he would adjourn sentencing until September 14 to allow time for the preparation of a psychiatric report on the accused.
An aggravating factor in the case was that the name of a HSE official with whom Cooper had previously worked was daubed on the headstones and his phone number was also painted on.
Insp John Deasy yesterday said the man whose name was graffitied on the headstones had absolutely nothing to do with the matter.
This man, who was not named in Cork District Court yesterday, has since moved out of his house in fear as a result of the matter.
The HSE official received a phone call from Sinn Féin members who saw the graffiti, asking him if he had some problem with the Republican plot.
This unnamed HSE official went to the cemetery where he met with members of Sinn Féin and assisted in removing the graffiti.
Previously Cooper stated he had spent two days drinking vodka and cider and not taking his prescribed medication and that this created problems. He said drinking like that was totally out of character for him.
Mr Buttimer said it was accepted that painting the other man’s name with the graffiti was a serious matter but that fortunately, “No other damage was caused to the person whose name was put on the headstones”.
“There had been animus between himself [Cooper] and the HSE person. Mr Cooper harboured some resentment and no doubt he did what he did against that background. He has had psychiatric difficulties but he has improved considerably as a result of medication.
Judge Kelleher said: “I am concerned this was a very serious matter putting a person’s name on the headstones and putting him and his family in fear.” Cooper was remanded on continuing bail for sentencing at Cork District Court in September.