Covid cough threat accused’s case 'unsustainable', court told

ireland
Covid Cough Threat Accused’s Case 'Unsustainable', Court Told
The defendant's solicitor Michael Kelleher told Judge Bryan Smyth that CCTV footage showed there was no incident
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Tom Tuite

The prosecution of a man accused of saying he had covid-19 and that he would cough on a now uncontactable woman in a row about social distancing is unsustainable, a court has been told.

Marko Topol, a Hungarian national, living in Dublin, had been charged with threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour at a bank in Dublin on March 28th last year. The case was among the first alleged covid-19 related incidents.

It was alleged the restaurant worker told the woman he had the coronavirus and would cough on her. He had been refused bail – due to the seriousness of the case – by the District Court on March 28 last.

However, he successfully challenged his detention in the High Court, which quashed the refusal of bail three days later.

The court heard a heated argument over social distancing allegedly developed between him and the woman, who accused him of being too close to her. She claimed he told her he had coronavirus and would cough on her, at which point she left the bank.

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A short time later, a garda arrived and arrested him in the bank for alleged threatening behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.

Remand prison

Mr Topol, who had never been in trouble before, told his solicitor he did not tell her he had the coronavirus or any other illness, and he had not threatened to cough on her. He spent three days in Cloverhill Remand Prison before the High Court released him.

His prosecution over the incident was back before Dublin District Court on Monday. His solicitor Michael Kelleher told Judge Bryan Smyth that the prosecuting garda had furnished disclosure, which shows the main witness, and complainant, was not contactable and has been for some time.

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Mr Kelleher argued that the case was clearly unsustainable, and he had written to the investigating garda asking him to clarify the position and to withdraw the charge.

The court sergeant told Judge Smyth the investigating garda, who did not have to attend, had told her that he had not been able to identify the complainant who cannot be tracked down.

In relation to the allegations, Mr Kelleher said CCTV footage showed there was no incident. His client has had to surrender his passport and was unable to leave the country to visit family.

Judge Smyth adjourned the case until a date in February for enquiries as to whether the prosecution will continue.

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