Sunday 4 December 2016

Man 'dragged woman backwards from footpath and threatened to throw her in canal' during assault

Fiona Ferguson

Published 12/02/2016 | 16:09

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A man has been jailed for three years for an unprovoked assault on a woman walking home alone from a night out with friends.

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Jeffrey Mitchell (44) dragged the struggling woman backwards from the footpath before she managed to get free and seek help from a taxi driver. He had told her during the attack he would throw her into the canal if she kept moving.

Mitchell, of Cabra Park, Dublin , pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting the woman causing her harm at Crossguns Bridge, Phibsboro on February 8, 2013.

Defence counsel for Mitchell, who had consumed up to 30 vodkas on the night, said he did not remember anything at all about that night. Mitchell has 70 previous convictions including assault, robbery, possession of a firearm and handling stolen property.

Judge Martin Nolan said he could only imagine what was going through the woman's mind during the assault and she probably feared the worst. He said it was extremely frightening attack without apparent motivation.

Judge Nolan noted Mitchell had a long history of convictions and due to the seriousness of the offence he had to impose a substantial sentence. He jailed Mitchell for three years.

Detective Garda Niamh Coates told Seamus Clarke BL, prosecuting, that the woman left McGowan's pub in Phibsboro at 3am to walk home.

She was making her way towards the canal when she heard a running noise behind her and an arm reached around her neck in a “hug like manner.”

At first she thought it was a joke but soon realised with the force of the pulling it was serious.

Det Gda Coates said the woman was dragged from the footpath onto gravel towards the canal.

Mitchell told the woman if she kept moving he would throw her into the canal. She fell during the struggle tearing her jeans and scraping herself. She kept fighting Mitchell off as he tried to pull her backwards.

The woman managed to get free and ran screaming to the main road where she met a taxi driver.

The incident lasted a few seconds and the man was chased for a time by passers-by.

The gardaí retrieved CCTV from local premises and were able to identify Mitchell and track his movements from when he left a fast food outlet just after the woman passed on the opposite side of the road to where the incident occurred.

Mitchell admitted being in Abrakebabra but told gardaí he had turned right in the opposite direction to the woman after leaving but later conceded he had turned left. He said he had consumed a lot of alcohol.

The woman said she has been crippled with anxiety since the incident and suffered flash backs. She said she no longer felt safe and did not know if she would ever feel safe.

Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, said Mitchell, who was drinking heavily and dabbling in heroin at the time, did not remember anything at all of what happened and accepted what the woman said.

Counsel said Mitchell had lost eight family members, including his parents, during an eight month period as he served a sentence in 2002 and fell into drug addiction. He managed to rehabilitate for a time but had relapsed prior to this offence.

He said Mitchell had once again dealt with his drug problem and was in a new relationship, ready to put this part of his life behind him.

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