A man with a religious persecution disorder who followed a parish priest into a sacristy with a knife and threatened to cut off his fingers has received a fully suspended sentence.
Mark Halligan (45) of Mountainview Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to making a threat to kill or cause serious harm at a church in Balally, Dundrum, on September 11, 2016.
Garda Ronan Kennedy told Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, that on the date in question the accused followed parish priest Father Peter Byrne into the church’s sacristy. Halligan began to talk about “various things”.
Gda Kennedy said Halligan had a large knife with him and told the priest he would “cut your fingers off”. A parishioner had seen what was happening and contacted gardaí who arrested the accused at the scene.
Halligan has 17 previous convictions, including convictions for theft, misuse of drugs, criminal damage, public order offences and road traffic offences. He has two children with an ex-partner.
Gda Kennedy agreed with Fiona Murphy SC, defending, that there were no injuries to the priest during the incident. He agreed that her client had engaged with St John of Gods Hospital subsequent to the incident and there had been no problems since.
Ms Murphy said her client has been diagnosed with a religious persecution disorder, which is a strain of schizophrenia. She said he had always worked in the past until the last two or three years when his mental health difficulties took over.
Judge Martin Nolan said he could accept that Halligan was delusional on the date in question. He noted that he had since obtained suitable treatment and there had been no recurrence in this type of behaviour.
Judge Nolan sentenced him to three years imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in full on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years and place himself under the supervision of the Probation Service for 18 months.