Garda weeps as 18 month attack sentence is suspended
Published 27/05/2011 | 13:17
A GARDA wept in court today when an eighteen month prison sentence imposed for an unmerciful beating he gave another man, was suspended in its entirety.
Garda Dean Foley (25) was jailed for six months yesterday for an assault that left a man with bleeding on the brain following a throwaway comment about a t-shirt.
Foley, who had previously been commended by the force, cried as he said he never intended to hurt Stephen Gerard Murphy during the incident that took place two years ago when Foley was off duty.
Foley was sentenced to 18 months -- with 12 months suspended -- for the assault that Judge Sean O Donnabhain described as "an unmerciful beating".
Today, Mr Foley's Defence Counsel Donal O'Sullivan told the court that he had failed to mention yesterday a principal in law which accepted that some mitigation in sentencing is granted to former guards and prison officers because they were likely to suffer more in prison.
He told the court that prison officers have said that his client, who is likely to lose his job, will be taken to the Midlands Prison where he will be isolated from other prisoners in a specific wing, kept under close supervision and restricted in his movements.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said that it is likely that if this had been argued yesterday he would have adjourned the case, with the accused remanded in custody and sentenced today.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said that 'we are in a completely different place today to where we were yesterday and if a point had to be made then perhaps it has been made'. He suspended the full eighteen month sentence.
The attack was triggered when Mr Murphy drunkenly joked that a t-shirt worn by one of Foley's friends was "a bit gay".
Foley, who had admitted the offence at a previous hearing the Circuit Criminal Court in Cork, faces dismissal from the force.
He had been on suspension for almost two years, pending a Garda Ombudsman investigation.
Foley will serve his sentence in the Midlands Prison. However, the Irish Independent has learned he won't be included in the general prison population over safety fears.
The court heard yesterday the accused sold everything he owned to raise substantial compensation for the victim.
In a letter to the court, Mr Murphy -- who has since made a good recovery -- said he harboured "no ill will" towards his attacker.
Mr Murphy, who did not attend the sentencing hearing yesterday, also said he did not want Foley jailed.
However, the judge said the assault could have had tragic consequences.
"There is no excusing your behaviour on the night," he told Foley, noting that one witness said the assault, which took place at the Grand Parade in Cork on September 12, 2009, was so brutal he was afraid to get out of a taxi to stop it.
Mr Murphy suffered a broken nose, facial fractures, broken teeth and bleeding to the brain as a result of the attack. Judge O Donnabhain said that, in his opinion, Mr Murphy was a danger to no one that night but himself.
"It was not a contest of equals," he said.
Mr Murphy has no recollection of the assault, which left him lying unconscious on a city pavement.
Earlier this month, Foley's brother Travis admitted to a lesser charge of assaulting Mr Murphy on the same date and location.
Both brothers have addresses at Tradean, Knocknasuff, Blarney, Co Cork.
In an emotional statement to the court yesterday, Foley said: "One moment of madness has cost me my whole life. I am very sorry for it, for what happened. I never had any intention of hurting anyone. It wasn't my intention to do it."
Foley joined the Garda in 2005 and has received several letters of commendation since.
One commendation was for an incident where, despite being off-duty, he intervened to help several victims of crime and to assist officers in tracking down the culprit.
The judge imposed an 18-month prison sentence but agreed to suspend 12 months of the term on condition Foley enters a bond of good behaviour on his release.
Foley is the first garda to receive a custodial sentence since the Garda Ombudsman Commission was set up in 2007.