Man headbutted, kicked and punched man and woman on Dublin Bus in row over a seat, court told
A Dublin man who carried out a prolonged violent attack on two people in a row over a seat on a bus has received a three year suspended sentence.
Peter Harte (26) launched the assaults on the man and woman after a disagreement the bus. The attack lasted ten minutes and involved head butting, kicking and punching.
Harte of Kildonan Road, Finglas, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to Pedro Mendez and Gabriella Leon at Old Kilmainham Road, Dublin on July 24, 2014.
Harte’s eleven previous convictions are mainly for alcohol related public order offences. He also has a conviction for robbery and an assault committed in May 2009.
Judge Desmond Hogan said Harte must carry out 240 hours voluntary work in the community as part of the suspended sentence and finish up participation with the Restorative Justice Programme.
He also said Harte must also undergo drug, alcohol and anger management programmes if deemed suitable and ordered that the €1,500 he had raised as a token of remorse be passed on to the victims.
Garda Caroline Kelly told the court during the sentence hearing that the two victims were getting the bus home after a few social drinks in the city centre. Harte got on the bus and came straight over to where they were sitting on the top deck.
There were other free seats on the bus and Mr Mendez asked Harte: “Man do you really want to sit beside us there are so many free?”
Harte replied: “You don’t tell me where to sit, don’t f****** speak to me like that”.
Mr Mendez told gardaí that that he then went to move his belongings off the free seat beside him to let Harte sit down. The Portuguese national turned to speak to Ms Leon, who is Mexican and at this point Harte began kicking him in the head.
He grabbed Mr Mendez’s long hair and got him into a headlock and whispered into his ear: “I’m going to kill you”. The victim pleaded with him, saying “Just let me go, I will get off the bus”.
Ms Leon described Harte’s attack as being like a boxer in a fight. She called gardaí on her phone but Harte continued the attack. Ms Leon began recording the attack on her phone and when Harte saw her doing this he swung at her, knocking the phone away.
He punched her face with a closed fist and continued punching her to the back of her head when she turned away from him to protect herself.
Mr Mendez came to help her and she went downstairs but she was afraid to get off the bus in case Harte followed her.
Gda Kelly told Judge Hogan that the attack lasted ten minutes. At one point Mr Mendez tried to apologise to his attacker, telling him: "I was rude, I apologise, I had a bad day.”
The victim could feel his right eye burning with the punches and after the attack he was barely able to open it.
Because of the incident the bus driver had stopped the bus. Harte sat down for a while after the assault ended and then went downstairs and asked the driver why the bus wasn’t moving.
Judge Hogan said this behaviour made it clear that Harte was “out of it”.
Harte then got off the bus and walked away. Gardaí received confidential information after CCTV footage of the assaults was played on RTE’s Crimecall programme and they went to Harte’s home.
After this Harte contacted gardaí and after viewing the footage, he admitted carrying out the assaults.
Garda Kelly said the two victims, who had been living and working here for a number of years, did not want to continue living here as a result of the attack.
Mark Lynam BL, defending, said that his client had no memory of the incident and had taken a large amount of alcohol and non-prescribed tablets on the night. Mr Lynam said since the attack there had been a number of incident of self harm on his client’s part.
The court heard Mr Mendez believed Harte was going to kill him. He suffered blurred vision after the attack and had trouble chewing. He was also left with bruising to his body.
Judge Hogan said: “Let me say it clearly, alcohol and drugs are not a defence to an offence such as this” but he added that his level of intoxication could be a mitigating factor in the context where Harte has pleaded guilty to the assaults.