An Air Corps commandant who was found guilty of assaulting a superior officer will not face dismissal from the Defence Forces, a military court has ruled.
At a sentencing hearing at McKee Barracks, in Dublin, Cmdt Nile (Niall) Donohoe (52) was docked 10 days' pay and given a €5,251 salary reduction by military judge Col Michael Campion.
Speaking at the sitting on Friday, the judge said Cmdt Donohoe had displayed “flagrant contempt to [his] senior officer” by poking Lieut Col John Maloney in the chest during an altercation at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, on the afternoon of August 10th, 2007.
Cmdt Donohoe, who was also found guilty of using insulting language towards a superior officer after calling Lieut Col Maloney a “piece of shit” on the same day, had demonstrated an “egregious breach of military discipline” during the incident in question, according to Col Campion.
He added that the commandant’s behaviour was “all the more unacceptable” given his senior rank within the Defence Forces and 24 years’ service.
Cmdt Donohoe had looked visibly ashen-faced as the judge outlined the possible consequences of his actions, which included a severe reprimand, a demotion or a formal court martial.
While stating that demotion to the rank of captain could have been considered an appropriate punishment, he said such a sentence would not be proportional as Cmdt Donohoe would soon reach the mandatory retirement age for that rank and so would suffer a reduction to pension and gratuities already accrued, and would not be afforded suitable opportunity to gain promotion and a resultant pay rise.
Instead, he will have his pay reduced from a current level of €63,176 a year to €57,925 from August 1st, and furthermore must forfeit one day’s pay for each of 10 consecutive months after that date to satisfy the conditions of the sentence.
Cmdt Donohoe will have the prospect of gradually building up his rate of pay to the previous level of €63,176 by 2017, the court was told.
Over the course of a three-day military trial in April, the court heard that Cmdt Donohoe had become aggressive towards his commanding officer during a meeting between the pair, and had proceeded to follow Lieut Col Maloney through the building and into the men’s restrooms where the alleged assault and verbal attack took place.
He said Cmdt Donohoe had poked him in the chest and called him a “piece of shit”, causing Lieut Maloney to seek refuge in a toilet cubicle.
Cmdt Donohoe was previously court-martialled for a separate incident in 2010, but that decision was subsequently overturned and he was reinstated to the Defence Forces two years later.
During Friday's hearing, the judge said mitigating statements from various military personnel, including Cmdt Donohoe's current commanding officer Col Peter Martin (officer commanding, central medical unit), counted towards the "lenient" sentence handed out, as did his personal circumstances and good conduct over the intervening eight years.
However, Col Campion said the pretrial argument that there had been “a backdrop of difficulty in relationship between you and other members of the Defence Forces” prior to the altercation “does not for one moment” justify the actions taken by Cdmt Donohoe.
“You failed to heed his [Lieut Col Maloney’s] attempts to defuse the situation: firstly by asking you to leave the office and secondly by leaving the office himself after you squared up to him,” added the judge, who concluded by urging Cmdt Donohoe to “reflect on your attitude to discipline and authority”.
Counsel for the defence Matt Shaw indicated his client would be seeking to appeal the decision, and an application will be made for an extension of legal aid to cover the appeal.