Wednesday 20 September 2017

Young mother begins jail term for violent disorder during Dale Creighton fatal attack

Aisling Burke. Pic Collins Courts.
Aisling Burke. Pic Collins Courts.

Natasha Reid

A mother-of-one, originally charged with murdering Dale Creighton, has begun a one-year jail term for violent disorder during the fatal attack on a Tallaght footbridge.

The 14-minute attack on Dale Creighton had begun after Aisling Burke’s mobile phone was stolen as she walked home from a night club. She had been sentenced to five years with four suspended last week, but had been given a week to arrange care for her child. She was back before the Central Criminal Court yesterday.

Mr Creighton (20) was assaulted by a group at the bridge over the Tallaght bypass between Saint Dominic’s Road and Greenhills Road four hours after he had rung in 2014.

He died in hospital the following day. The cause of his death was blunt force injury to his head and face.

Six men and one woman were originally charged with murder and went on trial at the Central Criminal Court in October, after pleading not guilty. However, those charges were dropped on the 15th day of the trial, after they pleaded guilty to lesser charges and had their new pleas accepted.

The seven, who are all from Tallaght, had rung in the new year at a local night club. They were sentenced to various terms last week.

The court was satisfied that 23-year-old Aisling Burke, with a last address at Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath, did not inflict any physical violence on Mr Creighton.

She was sentenced to five years in prison. The court suspended the final four years for two years on condition she be of good behaviour, keep the peace and be subject to probation service supervision for two years from her release.

She did not enter the bond in court, but will do so before the governor or a deputy of the governor in prison.

As a single mother, she had been given a week to organise care for her child. Dressed in a blue jacket, black trousers and blue shoes, she nodded at her parents as she was led away yesterday. Members of the victim’s family had also attended.

Five of her co-accused had begun their prison terms last week.

A sixth had walked free, after his sentence for possession of a knife at the time was fully suspended.

Case

They included her 28-year-old brother David Burke, with the same last address as his sister; Graham Palmer (26) with a last address at Park Avenue, Portarlington, Co Laois; Ross Callery (23) with an address at Gortlum Cottages, Brittas, Co Dublin; James Reid (26) currently of Glen Aoibhinn, Gorey, Co Wexford; Jason Beresford (23) with an address at Coill Diarmuida, Ard a’ Laoi, Castledermot, Co Kildare; and Gerard Stevens (27) with a last address at Grosvenor Square, Rathmines in Dublin.

Graham Palmer, Ross Callery, Gerard Stevens, Jason Beresford and David Burke had changed their pleas to guilty of manslaughter and were sentenced before a packed courtroom yesterday.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said the prolonged nature of the attack, the severity of the beating inflicted by multiple parties and the fact that Mr Creighton was unrecognisable to his family when summoned to his bedside all placed this on the higher end of the assault manslaughter scale.

She sentenced each of the five killers to 10 years, suspending various portions, depending on their culpability and circumstances.

Palmer, a father-of-one, was first to be sentenced and was jailed for a total of five years. Callery received a six-year jail term. David Burke received the longest jail term, at seven and a half years. Stephens received the shortest term, at three years. Beresford, the youngest of the five killers, was jailed for six years.

James Reid pleaded guilty to possession of a knife, which had a blade or was sharply pointed. The judge noted that he had not brought the weapon to the scene and had not used it.

She imposed a two-year sentence, which she suspended fully.

Some members of the victim’s family expressed their upset in court at the various suspensions. They had all left by the time Reid entered the witness box and entered a €1000 bond to be of good behaviour for two years

“Mr Reid, you’re free to go,” said the judge. “Be careful.”

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said they were not evil or even bad people but described the fatal assault as prolonged and vicious. She noted that, following an allegation that he had stolen Aisling Burke’s phone, Mr Creighton was ‘marched up the steps onto the footbridge and mercilessly kicked and beaten’ in ‘a kangaroo court’.

Some of the assault was caught on cctv.

“Not one of the young people shouted stop,” she said.

She said that it would be of comfort to society had such a crime been committed by people with a known or proven propensity for violence.

However, these were ‘all pretty normal, average young people’.

She said this was particularly frightening for society.

She said that our courts had, unfortunately, regularly encountered the practice of people sorting out their differences in this way. A person, deemed to have offended a member of the group, might be given a hiding as punishment.

She said that such practices were not confined to Tallaght, but could also be seen in the leafy suburbs.

“Rough justice is no justice,” she said, however. “No one is entitled to take the law into their own hands. Our society is governed by the rule of law.”

Dale Creighton’s life had been brutally ended and each of the seven must now answer for their actions, she said.

She noted that all seven, who were known to one another, had rung in the new year in the Plaza night club, where the entrance fee included multiple free drinks. Some also took cocaine. She accepted that Aisling Burke’s bag was stolen as she walked home alone and that she raised the alarm with her brother, David Burke.

Three men ran past a witness, who gave chase. CCTV showed Dale Creighton being followed to the bridge by this man and Reid. The deceased was seen with a knife.

David Burke then arrived with a long pole and confronted the deceased. They all disappeared off camera and Reid reemerged with the knife. He and the witness then left.

David Burke and the deceased remerged as a car appeared on the scene.

“David Burke appears to be in control of the situation,” said the judge, noting that he struck Mr Creighton two punches to his head and kicked him.

An eighth person, James O'Brien, got out of the car, kicked the deceased twice and punched him nine times to his head. O’Brien, who was later jailed for a year for that assault, then left.

Callery was next on the scene and immediately stuck the deceased a heavy blow, sending him backwards. Mr Creighton could be seen running away from Callery and Burke, but fell at the bottom of a tree. They caught up with him and one of them took a phone from him.

He got up but they followed him up the steps of the bridge again.

They were not seen on camera again for five minutes by which time a witness had called gardai twice to say two men had chased a third into the middle of the bridge. She said they were kicking and punching him into the head and body, while he lay on the ground. She asked for an ambulance when she called the second time.

Gardai in Tallaght Garda Station were able to turn the CCTV camera onto the bridge and capture the remaining four minutes of the attack. Palmer, Reid, Beresford and Aisling Burke were on the bridge by the time the camera was turned.

“She was present for practically the entirety of the beating,” said the judge of Burke.

“It’s clear that by that time, Dale Creighton was in a very serious condition. His body is visibly limp," she said, adding that this was particularly noticeable when one person was trying to force him up. “He resembled a rag doll, who had no independent power of movement.”

She said that the most shocking incidents were perpetrated by Beresford, the youngest of the defendants. While Palmer tried to lift him, Beresford was seen kicking him ‘full in the face as if his head were a football’.

He was also seen stamping on him while prone and grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and flinging him down the steps, she said.

“Ross Callery was unable to resist a kick while Dale Creighton lay prone,” she said.

She said that during the period covered by CCTV, Palmer appeared to be in control of ‘the interrogation’, striking him in head and groin.

She noted that during Stephens’ one minute at the scene, he gave a number of kicks and slaps to his upper body and head.

“The assault effectively ended when Jason Beresford flung the limp body of Dale Creighton down the steps,” she said.

He had been dragged back up by the time the gardai arrived and all were seen fleeing.

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