Wednesday 21 March 2018

Bank worker who left medical student blind in one eye after assaulting him with a pint glass avoids jail

Robert Jones (26)
Robert Jones (26)
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Declan Brennan

A bank worker who left a medical student blind in one eye after assaulting him with a pint glass has received a suspended sentence of 18 months.

Robert Jones (26) of Glenview Park, Tallaght, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm at Palace night-club, Camden Street, Dublin city, on July 20, 2014. The maximum penalty for the offence is five years.

After the night-club assault Jones told gardai that the victim Brian Murphy had repeatedly made “throat-cut” gestures at him, using his thumb across his throat.

He said Mr Murphy then came close to him and made it again and he instinctively threw his right hand at him and forgot he was holding a glass.

He said he thought Mr Murphy was going to hit him and felt threatened. He said it was completely instinctive and he had a rush of adrenaline and a “fight or flight feeling”.

The victim told gardai he had done nothing to provoke Jones and had not spoken to him before the assault. In his victim impact statement he wrote: “I did nothing to deserve this”.

The fourth year Trinity college medical student of Ennis Road, Limerick said that the night of the assault changed his life forever. He had permanently lost sight in his left eye and still suffered flashes of light in his vision.

He said that he asked his own doctors soon after the assault if he would still be able to do surgery. He added: “No-one deserves what I have suffered and what I will have to endure for rest of life”.

Dominic McGinn SC, defending, told the court that two women who were in Jones' company on the night gave statements to gardai that the victim had been “lurking around”, “drunk and messy” and had made the slit throat gestures at Jones.

Judge John Aylmer said he was making no determination on whether there was any provocation to the assault. But he said that having regard to some witnesses at the scene who stated there was provocation, he was legally bound to give Jones the benefit of that doubt.

He said the extent of the provocation was not great but he must take it into account as a mitigating factor.

In sentencing Jones Judge Aylmer noted his previous impeccable character and said that there was no question of rehabilitation required as there was no likelihood of Jones re-offending.

He said the assault was entirely spontaneous and not premeditated. Finally, as regards mitigating factors, he noted Jones had brought €8,000 to court as a token of remorse and that the victim was pursuing compensation in a civil action.

He said Jones, who is currently employed by AIB, had a very promising career and would be “a mark for compensation in the future” for the victim to pursue.

He pointed out that a custodial sentence would likely destroy Jones' career prospects which would affect the victim's ability to seek civil compensation from him.

In his victim impact statement Mr Murphy said he was a quiet person who did not seek out trouble and rarely went out to night-clubs.

He told gardai that he had been drinking with college friends in Dundrum earlier that evening before the group got a taxi into Camden Street. He said he was on his own on the dance floor when he saw a man dancing beside him.

This man then hit him in the face with a pint glass. He said there had been no words spoken between them before this. He saw blood all down his clothes and couldn't see out of his left eye.

He said he was struck forcibly and doubled up. He was bewildered and in a state of shock and the accused was looking at him and he said he asked Jones: “Why would you do that?”

The court heard the night of the assault was a big UFC night in the Dublin.

Garda Sean Trowell agreed with Mr McGinn that immediately after the assault he questioned Jones in the night-club. In a cautioned statement Jones told Gda Trowell that Mr Murphy had “gestured with his thumb across his throat about five times”.

He said he was sorry for what he did and he kept telling the victim this after the assault.

A female witness told gardai that Mr Murphy had come over and tried to dance with her and she pretended to be with Jones as if he was her boyfriend.

She said Mr Murphy tried once or twice and went away but came back. Another witness Lauren Byrne said she noticed Mr Murphy trying to dance with the first witness and she was trying to get away from him.

She said Mr Murphy stayed “lurking around” and was “drunk and messy” and was “a bit touchy feely” and “had been pulling at myself”.

She said he came over and said to her “you're with the wrong guy”. She said Jones didn't hear the comment.

She told gardai that Mr Murphy came over and made a slit throat gesture at Jones and “was up in his face”. She said assault took place in the next split second.

Later she saw Jones sitting down with his head in his hands. Another witness said he was crying.

Mr McGinn said his client came from a good law abiding hard working family and was hard working himself. He said since the age of 16 he had funded his own way through college and was now working for AIB.

He said Jones and his partner were living together now and were expecting a child. They had saved money up for a deposit on a house and this was where the €8,000 in compensation had come from, counsel said.

He said his client was not a violent man and was deeply sorry for what he did. He described Jones as “as soft soul” who could not cope in prison. “He is not a hard man,” Mr McGinn said.

Judge Aylmer said the case was one of the somewhat extraordinary cases of a single act of aberrant behaviour on the part of an accused of otherwise impeccable character.

Garda Trowell told the court that Jones had faced trial charged with the assault causing harm and a more serious offence of assault causing serious harm which came with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Jones entered a plea of guilty to the lesser charge once the DPP agreed to withdraw the more serious offence. A nolle prosequi was entered on this charge.

Judge Aylmer said this decision by the DPP had consequences for him.

He said: “Notwithstanding the horror I might experience in hearing the extent of the injury I cannot allow that to affect my decision. It would be wrong in principle as a matter of law to sentence him as if he had pleaded (guilty) to assault causing serious harm.”

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