Man caught carrying knife a ‘danger to others’

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

A local judge has said the problem with carrying knives is that ‘inevitably they will be used’.

District Judge Barney McElholm made comment as Michael Joseph Gerald Stokes pleaded guilty to possessing a box knife on June 30.

The 33-year-old, who received a suspended sentence last week for a similar offence, was refused bail at the local magistrates court.

Refusing bail, District Judge Barney McElholm said box knives ‘may be short and easily concealed but it is the sort of weapon that can cause an awful lot of damage. Those very short blades can cut through every layer of skin and make it practically impossible to stitch a wound in any reasonably successful way’.

He added ‘It is the sort of weapon used to inflict maximum damage and quite frankly I can see no excuse whatsoever for having such an item on his person. The only people who should be carrying such an item are those who professionally require it on a day-to-day basis’.

Derry Magistrates Court heard that Stokes, who was the victim of a so-called punishment shooting two years ago, was seen on John Street trying to get something out of his pocket while having an argument with another man.

Police attended and searched the 33-year-old and found the box knife attached to a key in his right trouser pocket.

During interview, Stokes denied possessing the knife and claimed that an eye witness ‘had it in for him’ and the police were ‘trying to stitch him up because he wouldn’t become an informant’.

Police opposed bail because they feared Stokes, who has 113 previous convictions, would commit further offences.

An investigating officer told the court that the 33-year-old received a suspended sentence last week for waving a knife at city council workers.

Defence solicitor Seamus Quigley said his client has been ‘self-medicating’ since he was ‘kneecapped’ and alcohol is a cause of his offending.

He added Stokes could be released with stringent bail conditions, including a ban on alcohol and a ban on entering John Street.

The judge refused bail because there is ‘too great a risk to the public of harm where someone has taken to’ carrying such a weapon.

He said Stokes may have started carrying the knife after the ‘quite disgraceful attack’ on him because he feared another attack.

However, the judge added the problem with carrying knives is that ‘inevtiably they will be used’.

Remanding Stokes in custody the judge said the 33-year-old should be subject to an assessment as soon as he gets to the prison because ‘as well as being a danger to others he could be a danger to himself’.

Stokes was remanded in custody to appear in court again via videolink on July 24.