A FORMER professional footballer has been given a seven and a half year sentence for an unprovoked stabbing which left the victim with a deep cut across his stomach and reduced mobility in his shoulder.
Trevor Donnelly (38) stabbed Keith Noone as the victim was climbing over railings on a small wall in the middle of a verbal altercation between two groups of people outside a Dublin pub.
The row had started between a woman in Mr Noone’s company and a female friend of Donnelly’s. The victim had nothing to do with it and was on his way home to get chips when he was attacked.
Donnelly of Balrothery Estate, Tallaght, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal to assault causing serious harm at the Village Inn Pub, Finglas on April 10, 2010. He has six previous convictions including road traffic and criminal damage offences.
The court heard that ten years previously Donnelly was left with a fractured skull after he was attacked with a baseball bat by Liam Byrne (32) of Raleigh Square, Crumlin.
Byrne was described in court last Friday as a member of an organised criminal gang.
Byrne was convicted by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury in December 2000 of assaulting Donnelly causing him serious harm on April 23, 2000 and making a threat to Ms Jennifer Doyle that he would kill or cause serious harm to Mr Donnelly on that occasion.
The court heard that since 2000 Donnelly has lived in constant fear and has had shots fired at his house.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring imposed a seven and a half year sentence and suspended the final two years on strict conditions including two years probation and welfare supervision.
She said that there were “very few crimes more serious than the one visited on Keith Noone” and noted Donnelly had once been the victim of an “unwarranted attack” himself. “Two wrongs do not make a right” she later commented.
As Donnelly was entering a bond to be of good behaviour during the suspended period of the sentence he said that he had not been given a chance to talk. He told Judge Ring that he should have been protected by the State and said his house had been “riddled with machine gun fire”.
The court heard that Donnelly and Byrne had “words” inside a Crumlin take away on the night, before Byrne left, made a phone call and then attacked Donnelly.
Byrne was later jailed for four years by Judge Dominic Lynch.
Detective Garda Eamonn Maloney, who was a witness for the defence, told Judge Ring, that although almost 50 people witnessed the attack on Donnelly, only he and his then girlfriend made statements to the gardai.
The couple were later told by Byrne and his associates that they would be killed if they gave evidence and were offered IR£50,000 not to bring the case to trial. The trial went ahead, twice, with Donnelly and his partner acting as state witnesses before Byrne was convicted.
Det Gda Maloney said that since 2000 Donnelly has lived in constant fear. In May 2005 shots were fired at his front door and his car was later vandalised. He said Donnelly wears a bullet proof vest and has had CCTV cameras erected around his house.
“He believes he is being watched and followed,” Det Gda Maloney said before he confirmed that gardaí had also informed Donnelly about threats on his life.
The detective told Colman Fitzgerald SC, defending, that there is no suggestion that Donnelly was involved in organised crime himself.
Garda Keith McGrath told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that Mr Noone required 42 stitches across his stomach and chest area and seven stitches to his neck.
He said that witnesses to the attack had tried to assist Mr Noone and stem the blood with their fingers and cling film before an ambulance was called.
Mr Noone spent five days in hospital and has been left with reduced power and movement in his left shoulder. He has managed to compensate for this by building up his muscle in his shoulder but his mobility will worsen again as he gets older.
Gda McGrath said Mr Noone’s shoulder is slumped and he still experiencing intermittent pain in his neck.
He has not returned to work since the attack and suffers severe anxiety. He continues to attend for physiotherapy and counselling.
Donnelly was identified as the culprit and 11 days later came voluntarily to the station. He placed himself at the scene but made no other admissions during a subsequent garda interview.
Mr Noone told Judge Ring that although many people tried to stem the blood flow coming from his stab wounds on the night, the blood continued to squirt out.
He said he has an on-going neck pain and although he previously had been an active member of his local community he doesn’t go out very much now.
“Since that day my whole life has changed, every aspect of it,” Mr Noone said.
He said he has not returned to work since but his employers have left his job open for him.
Mr Fitzgerald told Judge Ring that witnesses to the assault believed that the victim was jumping over the wall to confront Donnelly because of the row that was going on between the men’s friends.
He said his client regrets the attack but asked the court to accept that he stabbed Mr Noone in the context of the fear he had been living under at the time.
“He is not looking to dispute the appalling nature of what he did on the day,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
“It is ironic that as an innocent man ten years earlier he is now in the reverse position,” counsel continued but added that this cannot be a justification for what happened.
Mr Fitzgerald said his client had a difficult start in life and left school at an early age but was a talented footballer and played in the League of Ireland.
He said following the assault on him in 2000, Donnelly’s life fell apart. His relationship broke down, he started drinking heavily and he lived in a state of extreme fear going into paranoia.