RTÉ News reports the case of three mourners at a funeral in Co Tyrone being arrested for carrying offensive weapons. The items confiscated from three men at the funeral included two billhooks, several Stanley knives and two dozen hatchets. One wonders how many weapons a single person can carry.
Carrying sharp agricultural tools seems to have been a common cause for criminal charges. In my time I was in Dublin, a man I knew from Co Carlow called at the door one evening. He was due before the District Court the following week on charges of being drunk and disorderly, using abusive language to Gardai and possessing an offensive weapon. He wanted me to write a letter to his solicitor.
I spoke to him to check the details. “Tell me again what happened”.
“We’ve always been people for ponies, I have told you that”.
“Well, my uncle gave me this pony and it was in foal and I kept meaning to close up a hole in the hedge in the field where the pony was. Anyway, I don’t drink often, but sometimes I take too much and these friends called and I drank about twelve of the cans they brought and I was drunk.”
“What time was this?”
“About half past one in the morning. I decided I would go and fix the hedge at half past one because I was drunk”.
“I was walking down the road with a slash hook and I met the Guards in a car”.
“You said it was a bill hook before.”
“No, it was a slash hook, a long handled one”.
“So what did they say?”
“We had an argument and then a fight and I was arrested”.
“Who did they say you were going to attack with the slash hook?”
“They didn’t say I was going to attack anyone – they said I was drunk and abusive and that it was an offensive weapon. They have little to be doing.”
“What does the solicitor say?”
“He says he thinks I’ll be fined and put on probation.”
Had he not met with a Garda car, no crime would have arisen because he would not have been disorderly and would not have used abusive language and would not have been deemed as carrying a weapon.
I wrote to the solicitor pleading that the man’s family needed him to help care for the children.
The letter was no avail. I read a report of the case in which the District Court judge declared that the man’s story was a tissue of lies and gave the man a custodial sentence.
The following Saturday, the man called at the door. I confessed my surprise at his arrival. “I thought you were sent to prison?”
”I was. I stood in the dock and waited for someone to take me away and no-one came, so I walked out. No-one has come for me since.”
No-one ever did come for him. I asked a barrister who said the paperwork to admit the man to prison might have been completed only for the man to be immediately released for want of somewhere to put him.
In retrospect, his single slash hook seems almost inoffensive compared with today’s haul.