Killer conditionally discharged in harassment case over mental state
A convicted killer has been given a conditional discharge despite being found to have committed acts of harassment involving a fixation against a man he believed was having an affair with his ex-wife.
During police interview former soldier Glen Graham Stronge claimed to be "capable of anything" such was his resentment of the victim, but because of a legal loophole the court had limited options, leaving a judge to "balance the issue of public protection".
Stronge (45), of Camgart Road, Clabby, was originally charged with harassing and threatening to kill the victim on dates between July 27 and August 1, 2018. The threat charge was later dropped and replaced with causing needless anxiety by persistent use of a communications network.
He was first brought before Dungannon Magistrates Court following reports of ongoing calls and text messages from different phones. Some of these read: "Trust me - I will do time for you." "You will be got back big, big, time." And: "I am promising you - I will leave you in hospital for a long, long time."
After being charged Stronge replied: "He's lucky that's all he got, the b*****d."
Objecting to bail, police said: "The defendant has a previous conviction for manslaughter. We are concerned by statements made during interview that he may carry out his threats. He said he was capable of anything. There are concerns due to his previous history. He believes the injured party to be having an affair with his wife. He holds strong feelings against this man."
Bail was refused with the judge ruling: "For someone engaged in this type of behaviour who has made his position clear during police interview, I would not be prepared to grant bail."
This was overturned at the High Court, with conditions imposed including a ban on using a phone or residence where a landline was installed. There was also to be no contact with the victim.
Protracted proceedings followed, with Stronge's lawyers advising a psychiatric assessment was required due to "lack of capacity to instruct lawyers or understand instructions".
The defence contended this meant the case was "totally compromised" and a review may have to be conducted to consider if the case should be dropped.
After significant delay in obtaining a definitive psychiatric report, often causing the court to issue stern warnings, it was finally confirmed Stronge was not fit to participate in proceedings.
As a result District Judge John Meehan conducted a fact finding hearing in which he found Stronge did carry out the acts.
However, this in turn caused issues over disposal as, on the back of the medical finding of mental unfitness, only certain options were available, one of which was a hospital or guardianship order, which requires the evidence of two doctors. There were also options to discharge.
District Judge Meehan imposed a conditional discharge for 12 months, pointing out: "I feel this matter must be marked on record as there is requirement to balance the issue of public protection. These were acts of harassment and misuse of a communications system. It has to stack up. There has to be record in the event of further similar offending."
At this point a prosecution lawyer advised there was also the option for absolute discharge, which would have thrown out all matters entirely, but Judge Meehan replied: "I am aware of that and I decline. It remains a conditional discharge."
Stronge, who was in attendance but did not participate, walked free from court.