A military court has sentenced an army recruit who falsely imprisoned and assaulted another trainee soldier at a military barracks in Limerick two years ago to seven days detention at the military prison in the Curragh Camp followed by a discharge from the Defence Forces.
A military judge, Colonel Michael Campion, said the offences committed by Private Philip McCarthy of the 12th Infantry Battalion based at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick were incompatible with him remaining in the army and represented “an egregious breach of the ethos of service of the Defence Forces”.
Following a trial last year, Private McCarthy was found guilty of the false imprisonment of another trainee, Trooper Jack Canty, in a room at an accommodation block at Sarsfield Barracks on July 18th, 2021.
The accused, who had pleaded not guilty to a series of charges, was also convicted on two counts of assaulting Trooper Canty during the same incident by throwing him to the ground and holding him in a headlock.
McCarthy was also found guilty on three charges of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline contrary to Section 168 of the Defence Act 1954 relating to his aggressive and threatening behaviour towards the victim.
He was separately acquitted of two charges of assault causing harm to Trooper Canty.
Evidence was heard during the court martial that McCarthy had confronted Trooper Canty over his performance during recruit training and tried to intimidate him into quitting the army.
The trial heard Trooper Canty was lured into his room by another recruit where he was confronted by a group of trainees including McCarthy.
The accused had asked his victim if he had “heard the good news” which Trooper Canty understood to refer to people going around “giving beatings” to others so he knew what was coming.
During their altercation, McCarthy remarked to his victim: “You are either leaving in the morning or leaving with broken ribs.”
Trooper Canty claimed he felt he could not breathe at one stage and feared he would be rendered unconscious from the headlock.
At the end of the confrontation, McCarthy remarked: “This is going to keep happening and will get worse until you leave.”
At a sentencing hearing at the Military Justice Centre in McKee Barracks in Dublin on Thursday, Col Campion said McCarthy was an instrumental and leading force in the group which subjected the victim to repeated intimidation and threatening conduct.
The judge said the accused’s premeditated and unprovoked actions represented “an entirely unacceptable breach of the standards” expected of members of the Defence Forces.
He observed that McCarthy had shown no signs of remorse for his offending.
Col Campion noted that McCarthy, who had previously served a separate two-year term in the Defence Forces, was regarded by himself and some others as the “senior man” among the recruits but had not shown any insight from his greater experience of military life.
He observed that the accused had used his position to threaten, intimidate and assault Trooper Canty at a vulnerable time in his victim’s career when he was struggling with elements of his training.
The judge remarked that McCarthy’s actions, which he described as “a misguided exercise in leadership,” had led to a major investigation and administrative work which were prejudicial to good order within the Defence Forces “in a very real way.”
Such conduct is just not acceptable and has no place in the Defence Forces
“Such conduct is just not acceptable and has no place in the Defence Forces,” he added.
Col Campion said it was clear from a victim impact statement from Trooper Canty that the effects of what happened “go beyond physical discomfort and pain.”
If left unchecked, the judge said McCarthy’s actions would have “a corrosive effect” on morale and discipline within the Defence Forces.
He claimed attempts to portray the accused’s conduct as “positive and well-intentioned” were entirely misconceived.
The judge remarked that the humiliation and financial damage that would be suffered by McCarthy were entirely brought on by his own actions.
The idea that his offences should be treated as benign was “entirely unsustainable” as it was “no momentary one-off incident,” Col Campion observed.
He pointed out that McCarthy was a lead player who had threatened his victim with repeating the offences as often as was necessary.
Col Campion sentenced the accused to discharge and 7 days detention for the conviction of false imprisonment and assault involving a headlock and a severe reprimand for his threatening behaviour towards his victim.
The judge also ordered the discharge of McCarthy for engaging in a confrontation with Trooper Canty and sentenced him to 7 days detention for each of the other Section 168 charges with all periods of imprisonment to run concurrently.
He said he had taken into consideration that McCarthy had recently got married and his wife was expecting a baby in deciding not to impose a fine.
The judge rejected an application by counsel for McCarthy, Gerard Humphreys SC, to put a stay on his client’s discharge from the Defence Forces pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal.