Tuesday 6 December 2016

Man who hit neighbour over the head with beer bottle is sentenced

By Sonya McLean

Published 16/04/2015 | 16:27

He suspended the last 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions.
He suspended the last 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions.

A man who hit his neighbour over the head with a beer bottle because he claimed she had insulted and threatened his family has been sentenced to three and half years in prison.

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Mark Freer (37) of Blackditch Road, Ballyfermot,  Dublin had known the victim Louise Smith for six or seven years when she alleged he attacked her while she was walking home.

Freer pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm on July 28, 2013. His ten previous convictions include a two year jail term in 2007 for violent disorder.

Judge Martin Nolan said certain words were passed and “insults were given by the injured party to the family of the accused”. He said Freer suspected she was going into his house when he assaulted her.

“He lost control and viciously attacked with a bottle,” Judge Nolan said. The victim suffered severe cuts to the lip, nose and cheek.

Judge Nolan said he had been shown photographs of the woman’s injuries taken some days after the attack, which he described as “graphic images”.

“At least in his mind there was some sort of provocation,” the judge said before he sentenced Freer to three and half years in prison. He said the assault was too serious to avoid a jail term, despite Freer’s “perceived provocation and fears”.

He suspended the last 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions.

Garda Brian O’Reilly agreed with Anne-Marie Lawlor BL, defending, that blood was found just outside the door of Freer’s home and accepted that it was her client’s belief that Ms Smith was just about to “gain access to his house” to follow through on a threat to his wife.

Gda O’Reilly told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting that Ms Smith told gardaí that she “never had a row or cross word with him (Freer) in the previous six years” and that she was friendly with his wife.

She claimed that she had been coming home from another neighbour’s house that night when she heard a voice from behind her and recognised it as Freer. She turned and saw his arm in the air before she felt a heavy blow to the head.

She told gardaí that she thought she was going to die and she felt her head had cracked open.

The next thing she recalled was being in a neighbour’s kitchen before she was taken to Tallaght Hospital where she received six stitches to her nose and four to her lip. She also had a lump on her forehead.

In her victim impact report she said the assault still affects her and she is stressed and anxious all the time.

Freer was arrested the following December and told gardaí in interview that he and Ms Smith had been drinking in a neighbour’s house, when he claimed she made derogatory comments about his wife and children.

He wasn’t happy about this and a short time later, when he believed Ms Smith had gone home, he started to talk to the other man about what she had said.

Freer claimed that Ms Smith had been behind a door at the time, listening to the conversation. When he saw her there she began shouting at him and lunged at him.

Freer told gardaí Ms Smith “was screaming at him in a frenzy” and he was afraid she was going to his home to frighten his wife and children.

He admitted he hit her with the bottle but claimed that he had forgotten it was in his hand.

He said he was just reacting to what he perceived to be an attack on his family and said he was sorry for what he had done.

Ms Lawlor told Judge Nolan that gardaí accept that her client’s version of events “cannot be disbelieved” as there are no other witnesses to the assault. She asked that he accept Freer’s account.

She said her client accepts that he committed a criminal offence which resulted in serious injuries but she added he was offering an explanation for what otherwise appears to be “an utterly unprovoked attack”.

Ms Lawlor said it does not excuse what Freer did but puts the assault into context.

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