A LIMERICK man who left a school boy with permanent brain damage after beating him unconscious in an unprovoked attack must wait to learn if his appeal against his 15-year sentence has been successful.
The man, who was a teenager in the care of the HSE at the time of the 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.
The now 20-year-old man, from Lisanalta in Dooradoyle, 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.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Frank Clarke today said that the Court of Criminal Appeal was mindful of the importance of the case both from the perspective of the accused and the victim, and in light of the difficulties raised in the legal submissions the court would reserve its judgement and deliver it in due course.
Moving the appeal, Mr Patrick Gageby SC had argued that sentencing judge Mr Justice Paul Carney erred in his attribution of the question of whether drink and drugs were a relevant factor in the offence.
He 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.
Mr Gageby said Mr Justice Carney “almost entirely” dismissed the “grossly apparent” dysfunctional background of the accused. Counsel submitted it was a “cardinal error” for a judge to opine that a dysfunctional background was of little if any regard in a case such as this.
Counsel submitted that the man’s youth, his plea of guilty and his expressions of remorse were “bundled in to too small a period” of reduction when it came to imposing sentence.
He said in circumstances where this a complex case involving a “dreadful and visible” offence, where the applicant was at the time a child in law and where the judge had three weeks to consider his judgement, Mr Justice Carney committed an error in principle by failing to explain why he did not take some matters in to account when considering an appropriate sentence.
Mr Gageby agreed with Mr Justice Clarke that it was essentially argued the sentence of 15 years itself was too severe and that insufficient deduction was made for the mitigating circumstances in the case.
Counsel for the State, Mr Paul Coffey SC, submitted there was no dispute as to the gravity of the offence and the “appalling consequences” for the victim.
Mr Coffey said that 15 years was an appropriate starting point in circumstances where the maximum sentence for the offence was life imprisonment and where it was “very difficult” to conceive of a worse case.
He said that although the applicant’s legal counsel at the sentence hearing placed specific relevance on the mitigating factors in the case such as the applicant’s plea of guilty and the assistance he offered to gardai, he did not agitate for the relevance of drink and drugs.
Mr Coffey said that Mr Justice Carney adjudicated on and took account of all mitigating factors urged upon him, including the applicant’s plea of guilty, his age and the obligation to leave a “tunnel of hope” in terms of rehabilitation.
CCTV footage of the almost five-minute, frenzied attack was shown at the Central Criminal Court sentence hearing, revealing how the victim was sitting on a windowsill when he was attacked by the accused.
The attacker repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on the boy’s head as he lay motionless on the ground and the assault continued long after the boy had stopped moving.
The accused then left his victim’s body lying in a pool of blood on the forecourt. A car was seen driving by his body before the accused returned a few moments later to stamp, kick and punch the unconscious teenager again.
The court heard previously that 11 eyewitnesses observed the attack, but it was not until this point that a man described in court as ‘A good Samaritan’ was seen intervening and moving the criminal away.
The victim was taken to Limerick Hospital, where he was kept on life support for eight days before being transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
A medical report said the teenager still suffers from weakness on his right side, deafness, as well as memory and speech problems as a result of the attack.
The court heard that the accused was in the care of the HSE when he carried out the attack. He was being transferred back to his accommodation by two female social care workers when he demanded the driver stop the car at the service station.
He had wrongly thought that his victim was involved in having his friend imprisoned for life.
“I beat the head off him. I danced over his head,” he said when arrested.