Man sentenced for violent threats to prison officers at UHG

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A Mayo man was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for “appalling” violent murder and rape threats to prison officers at University Hospital Galway.

Michael Cleary (34), was sentenced at Galway Circuit Court for making extremely violent and graphic threats this month after fleeing the country for several years to escape sentencing.

He had pleaded guilty back in 2016 to a string of vile threats made to two prison officers escorting him for treatment at UHG in October of 2013, while he had been on remand at Castlerea prison.

In November of 2016, Cleary entered a plea of guilty to these charges. But, after being granted bail to attend an addiction treatment programme, he left it to flee the country.

Sgt Andrew O’Hara gave evidence to the court that on October 19 of 2013, a prison officer reported that she had been the subject of sustained verbal abuse by a prisoner she was guarding while he was receiving treatment at UHG.

The court heard of numerous threats made by Cleary to her and another prison officer over the course of several days that month.

Among these, he told the female prison officer that he would cut her face with a carving knife, that he would break her teeth, and on one occasion said that he was going to get a sawn-off shotgun while verbally abusing her.

Cleary also made threats to have other people attack her, saying that he would have four people waiting outside the hospital when she finished work, and that he would pay someone €10,000 to “wipe the smirk off her face”, Sgt O’Hara told the court.

During one tirade he also attempted to lunge at the officer, but was unable to reach her as he was handcuffed to the bed.

After she made a complaint, Gardaí interviewed other prison officers, one of whom had similarly been subject to violent threats.

On October 15 a male prison officer was guarding Cleary, and after denying a request to take him out for a cigarette, he told the officer that he would find out where he lived, burn down his home, and rape and kill his wife.

Other abuse levelled at the officer included threats to have him attacked by friends of Cleary, and to have his face cut off back at the prison.

He also coughed at the prison guard, saying that he was trying to get him infected with his TB, and at one point bit him on the arm,

When interviewed by Gardaí, Cleary admitted that he had a problem with the female prison officer, calling her names, but denied threatening her. He also denied threatening the male officer, saying that it was just ‘shite talk’.

A written victim impact statement from the female prison officer was read for the court by Sgt O’Hara, in which she said she was subjected to relentless abuse without any provocation.

She said that she had to be transferred to another prison, as she no longer felt safe where she was working, and also no longer volunteered for prison escorts.

She said that she had to take sick leave due to her mental state after this, and still feels unsafe in crowded places.

Mr Cleary’s barrister Gary McDonald BL said that his client had tried to apologise for his behaviour through the prison governor.

Mr McDonald said that Cleary had serious drug addictions, and claims that at the time of the incident he was coming down off drugs.

It was added that he was now holding his hands up to his actions, and had come back to the country by arrangement to face sentencing.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan said that this took place in a public setting at UHG, where other people were impacted by the “appalling conduct” of Cleary.

He noted that the guilty plea given in 2016 “appears to have been the end of his remorse for some years”, and that his subsequent flight denied him any mitigation for good conduct.

The judge noted that he blamed coming down off drugs for his conduct, but that no evidence substantiating this had been put before the court.

Taking into account the plea, Judge O’Callaghan sentenced Cleary to three and half years in prison, none of which was to be suspended.