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Suspended jail for Armagh woman branded ‘nuisance to community’ after assaulting police and publican

She pleaded not guilty but was convicted of all four charges by the deputy district judge who said she 'must be ashamed of yourself' as he spoke of her 'reprehensible conduct' and how she behaved 'in an inappropriate and unlady-like way in a public street'

Armagh Courthouse

An Armagh woman who was convicted of assaulting a local publican and a police officer has been sentenced to four months in prison suspended for three years.

After reading the 52-year-old’s record, the deputy district judge refused to accept her version of any of her claims made in court and described her as a “nuisance to the community”.

Florence Margaret Agnew, of Drumarg Park, appeared charged with disorderly behaviour, common assault, criminal damage and assault on police at the city’s Magistrates’, sitting at Newry, on Tuesday.

She pleaded not guilty but was convicted of all four charges by the deputy district judge who said she “must be ashamed of yourself” as he spoke of her “reprehensible conduct” and how she behaved “in an inappropriate and unlady-like way in a public street”.

At the contest hearing, the first person called to the stand to give evidence was the injured party, the owner of a bar in the city.

He outlined that at 6pm on March 28, 2019, he had been working behind the bar when this defendant entered the premises.

The injured party stated that he had been aware of an incident between Agnew and his wife earlier in the day, so he approached her to ask her to leave.

He described how the defendant had refused and raised her hands. He admitted to doing the same before attempting push her back out of the bar.

The victim said that whilst doing this, Agnew had been kicking and scrabbing at him as “around a dozen customers, some of them from abroad”, watched on.

As the publican reached for a latch to open the door, he stated that his finger got caught in the mouth of the defendant before he was able to get her out of the property.

He then outlined that he quickly pulled down the shutters, with Agnew then proceeding to “batter” the windows.

Advising court that he had known the defendant for about “30 or 40 years from around the town”, the injured party described her behaviour on the date in question as “very violent”.

Cross-examining the injured party, defence barrister Patrick Taggart asked whether he or Agnew had made the first contact.

The publican stated that it was “50-50 at about the same time”.

Mr Taggart put it to the injured party: “Ms Agnew would say that you attacked her. She would say that you grabbed her violently and then with both on the shutters kicked her in the chest into the street.”

The injured party was further asked about if he had been bitten by the defendant, and he commented that she had “caught his finger” with her mouth.

Next called to give evidence was a male constable. He recalled that at 6pm on the same date he responded to a report regarding a female at a bar in Armagh.

He spoke with the publican, who alleged that the defendant had entered the bar intoxicated and that he had ejected her after she refused to leave.

The constable stated that he had looked down the street and observed a female, who matched the description of Agnew, sitting on the windowsill of a funeral directors.

He told court: “She was quite clearly intoxicated…she was aggressive toward me, calling me all sorts and shouting things such as ‘up the RA'”.

The constable said that a female colleague then arrived. Whilst she went off to make a radio transmission he claimed the defendant got up off the windowsill but stumbled over and he helped her back up.

He stated that Agnew had later threatened to headbutt him and bite his finger.

“At one point she stood up and looked at me, she walked towards me and tried to punch me….I then took her to the ground,” the constable outlined.

Whilst being restrained on the ground, the constable stated that Agnew had continued to be aggressive, kicking out and biting at him, although he commented that she “did not get a firm grip”.

After being handcuffed and taken to a nearby cell van, the constable claimed that the defendant became abusive once more and spat on the plastic screen inside the vehicle..

He told court that Agnew appeared to “calm down” upon her arrival at Armagh Police Station.

Prosecution then prompted the officer through the interview of the defendant which occurred on April 8, of that same year.

The defendant was said to have made apologies for biting the officer.

Bodycam footage caught by this constable’s colleague was then shown to the court.

Cross-examining the constable, Mr Taggart put it to the constable that in his client’s view “police were heavy handed for the outset”.

His female colleague was next to give evidence. She reported arriving at the scene and observing the defendant to be intoxicated.

She commented that Agnew displayed slurred speech and was unsteady on her feet.

The constable also outlined that the defendant was acting in an aggressive manner towards her male colleague.

She described how Agnew had walked towards her colleague and that he had subsequently taken her to the ground.

Whilst there, the constable stated the defendant kicked out, with her then being detained and transferred to a cell van.

She then went on to record a statement from the publican and took photos of scratches to his hand and arm.

The defendant herself then took the stand. She outlined how on March 28 she had gone to the Sinn Fein office in Armagh to make a complaint regarding a “high standing member” of the community.

Agnew stated that she had previously written letters to her MLA about this male, whom she alleged had jibed and made “sexual remarks” towards her.

She then attended the local bar to speak with the injured party’s wife. Whilst there she claimed to have been assaulted.

Whilst walking, Agnew also claimed to have been verbally abused by the male whom she had made the complaint about at the Sinn Fein office.

When she later returned to the pub, the defendant claimed that as soon as she entered the injured party came towards her and pushed her backwards and kicked her with both feet into the street.

The defendant said it was “the hardest” she had ever been hit and that she had flown in the air before landing in the middle of the road.

Agnew claimed it took her a few minutes to come round and she was helped up by a member of the public, before sitting on the nearby windowsill.

The defendant said that she panicked upon the arrival of the male officer, adding that his female colleague came and calmed down the situation.

When she got up from the windowsill, Agnew told the court that she wanted to go home as she was “very distressed”.

She also informed the court that she did not bite, scrab or kick the injured party claiming that he was “telling lies”.

Cross-examining the defendant, prosecution asked her whether she was in an intoxicated state, which she denied.

The prosecution put it to Agnew, that she had stated in her interview, over a month after the incident: “I hadn’t a pile of drink but I wouldn’t have done that if I was sober.”

Despite this, the defendant asserted that she had at the time “clarity of mind”.

Prosecution also put it to Agnew, that during the bodyworn footage she could be heard stating “I will knock your lamps in” to the male constable. She replied that she was “afraid of him”.

Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer commented that the defendant had made admissions to assaulting the officer through an apology during interview.

However, Agnew contested this claiming that she “should not have said that”.

Pressed by the prosecution about spitting in the cell van, the defendant claimed that the male constable had been “sexually goading” her in the rear of the vehicle.

In closing statements, prosecution stated: “I put it to the court that she was intoxicated at the time. She was acting aggressively and she made attempts on a number of occasions to assault the constable.

“The defendant has stated during cross-examination that even though a man had grabbed her by both arms and as she put it, ran her towards the door, that she didn’t at any point try to bite, scrab or kick him or make any attempt to fight back.”

And he added: “I just put forward that my submission is that that is just not a credible account of what happened.”

Mr Taggart first addressed the charge of disorderly behaviour. Pointing to the bodyworn footage he commented that although colourful language was used it was not necessarily said in a “loud voice”.

As for the matters of criminal damage and assault on an officer, Mr Taggart stated those were matters for the Deputy District Judge to rule on with the evidence before him.”

Deputy District Judge Mateer convicted the defendant of all four charges

He said: “If you pleaded guilty, you would have got a lesser sentence. The law says you’re entitled to get a lesser sentence because you plead guilty, avoiding the need for a trial.

“We haven’t done that. The appropriate sentence in this case has to reflect the fact that you have a criminal record for assaulting police and disorderly behaviour.”

He continued: “In 2008, way back then, you were assaulting police, resisting police and committing disorderly behaviour, then nothing happens. At least nothing is ever recorded again.

“Until 2016, eight years later when you’re back out committing disorderly behaviour and assaulting the police again. On the first occasion, you got a conditional discharge and on the next occasion you’re given probation, both of which can be seen as extremely lenient sentences.”

The deputy district judge revealed that Agnew then breached that order but was “leniently again” given a second probation order, followed by another similar order in 2017 for disorderly behaviour.

He stated: “So we come to 2019, on the fourth of February, just two months before this, surprise, surprise, you’re assaulting the police again and committing disorderly.”

Deputy District Judge Mateer described the defendant as a “nuisance to the community”.

He continued: “I imagine from your appearance in that video you must be ashamed of yourself, sitting on the window ledge of a funeral directors, blocked and speaking in a slurred way, behaving in an inappropriate and unlady-like way in a public street.

“It really is the most reprehensible conduct from a lady who then has the temerity to claim in court that you were been sexually harassed by the constable, given the way you behaved in this particular engagement that you were that last person to be able to complain about the propriety of what somebody else’s behaviour.”

Agnew was sentenced to a total of four months in prison suspend for three years.

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