News Courts

Thursday 28 August 2014

Attacker who caused brain damage to get sentence cut

Brian Kavanagh

Published 19/03/2014 | 02:30

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Mr Justice Frank Clarke
Mr Justice Frank Clarke

A man who left a schoolboy with permanent brain damage after beating him unconscious in an unprovoked attack has successfully appealed against the 15-year sentence imposed on him.

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The man, who was a teenager in the care of the HSE at the time of the "unprovoked, sustained and vicious" attack, was caught on camera inflicting 65 kicks and stamps to his 16-year-old victim's head, along with two stamps to his chest and 26 punches.

There was evidence that the man told gardai that he was "stoned out of his head on vodka and tablets" at the time of the attack.

The Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday ruled that the sentencing judge failed to consider whether the nature of the man's problems with drink and drugs – stemming from his "particularly severe dysfunctional background" – brought the matter outside the type of case where there is a simple reliance on drink or drugs as an excuse.

However, given the man's young age and previous record, presiding judge Mr Justice Frank Clarke said the court would consider reports on his progress in prison and hear submissions on what an appropriate sentence might be before determining the new sentence to be imposed.

The now 20-year-old man, from Dooradoyle, Co Limerick, was originally charged with attempted murder of the boy on July 23, 2010, as the victim waited for his mother at a service station in Corbally, Co Clare.

However, a plea to intentionally causing his victim serious harm was accepted in the Central Criminal Court and in November 2011 he was sentenced to 15 years, with the final three years suspended by Mr Justice Paul Carney.

In its written judgement, the Court of Criminal Appeal noted that in sentencing the man, Mr Justice Carney held that the influence of drink and drugs "affords no defence but also no mitigation in one's responsibility to society", and that the man's dysfunctional background afforded him little, if any, mitigation.

ABUSE

Moving the appeal, Mr Patrick Gageby SC said while the judge's finding that the issue of drink and drugs offered no defence may have been correct, to misattribute it as "simply irrelevant" to the mitigating circumstances in the case was wrong.

In its written judgement, the appeal court found that a sentencing court is required to consider whether a persistent problem with substance abuse, particularly if it stems from a difficult upbringing, can amount to a factor that weighs significantly on the sentencing process.

A report on the man's background indicated his parents were "unavailable", that he had "multiple disruptions in relation to his sense of home", and he also had problems with drug and alcohol abuse.

Irish Independent

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