KFC pepper spray attack ‘protester’ sent to prison
MASKED MAN WAS OBSESSED WITH ‘ANIMAL RIGHTS’
A MASKED man who sprayed pepper spray at two customers and a staff member in KFC in Bray in an animal rights protest has been sentenced to three years in prison. Neil Lenoach (24), 54 Monastery Grove, went into KFC on February 17 last year wearing a balaclava and army combats, armed with pepper spray and a baton.
The court heard that the events that unfolded were like ‘a dream' or ‘a film' to the accused. He first sprayed the only two customers sitting at a table near the door, before turning his attention to an employee, spraying him also. Gardaí had already come to the door when he tried to leave. Lenoach escaped through the emergency exit but was chased down and arrested. The defendant had a rucksack hidden nearby, containing a change of clothes.
His solicitor, Joe Maguire, said that the young man comes from a respectable family and has never been in trouble before. However, he did become problematic in his teens, dropping out of school at the age of 14. ‘He developed a form of obsession regarding the hardship of livestock he connected to that particular outlet,' added Mr Maguire. He added that psychiatric reports indicate that Lenoach may suffer from Asperger’s syndrome.
The accused offered €1,000 each to the injured parties and his solicitor asked Judge Connellan to consider a probation report.
‘I've listened to the facts and the facts are indeed strange,' said Judge Connellan, noting that while the defendant had offered €3,000 in compensation, he accepted free legal aid rather than save the State that expense.
‘I have heard everything about the case. But I haven't heard where he got the balaclava, the baton, two pepper sprays, and the rucksack.' The judge said that while he took into consider- ation fully both psychiatric reports, he felt that ‘ this young man is leaning on and using as an excuse a preliminary assessment that came out in his youth but was never conclusively confirmed as Aspergers’.
He added that he felt the defendant was ‘grasping at an assessment made years ago and saying “that's it, I can behave in a certain manner.”
‘If this is not dealt with now, goodness knows what may occur.'
Judge Connellan handed down sentences of six months each for possession of each can of pepper spray, having the baton, and the assault of three people.