Wednesday 23 January 2019

Boy (17) who beat Afghan student with hammer given eight-month custodial sentence

The Children's Court, Smithfield
The Children's Court, Smithfield

Tom Tuite

A 17-year-old boy, who beat an an Afghan student over the head with a hammer during a vicious street attack in Dublin, has been given an eight-month custodial sentence.

Mechanical engineering student Salman Azarabas (22) who fled his war-torn country to have “a peaceful life”, thought the youth and a gang of teens tried to kill him when he caught them stealing his bike in Dublin, a court had heard.

The DIT student was hospitalised and lost precious photos of his deceased parents that had been saved on a laptop which was never recovered after the incident last year.

Today at the Dublin Children’s Court, Judge John O’Connor described that incident as “nasty”.

He noted from a pre-sentence report that the 17-year-old youth, who cannot be named because he is a minor, had told a probation officer that he was not responsible for the loss of the student’s family photos. In his meeting with his probation officer he had also claimed the victim had exaggerated when he gave his impact statement in court earlier.

The teen had pleaded guilty to assault causing harm and violent disorder.

Pleading for leniency, defence counsel Damian McKeone said he was now instructed to tell the court the boy was sorry. However, Judge O’Connor described the late apology as “self-serving”.

He noted the youth, who was accompanied to court by his mother, had been released from an earlier sentence a month ago and has not come to further garda attention.

However, he also said the youth has shown no remorse and but noted he had had mental health and a history of drug addiction.

Imposing a custodial sentence, he said in addition to the youth’s interests, he had to take into account the seriousness of the charge, the victim and the best interests of society.

The 17-year-old detained today showed no emotion during the sentence hearing and did not address the court. He was hugged by his mother before he was escorted from the courtroom to await transfer to Oberstown detention centre.

Another youth who had attacked the victim, chased him with a hammer and took his laptop case was given a six-month sentence on Monday.

Today, a 15-year-old boy was placed on probation for 12 months. He had punched Mr Azarabas, picked up the bike and then dropped it on him and ran towards him several times.

The court heard he is complying with a range of measures put in place in relation to his eduction, engagement in pro-social activities, peers and family issues, to reduce his risk of re-offending.

The teens had pleaded guilty to violent disorder and assault charges in connection with the incident on Dublin’s South Circular Road on the night of March 9 last year.

Garda Orla Moynihan told the court that the incident happened at about 10.15pm when one of the youths tried to steal a bike that was locked to a pole but were confronted by the owner.

The youth who was detained today was then aged 15. He hit the man on the head with a hammer which he then passed on to another teenager, the court was told.

Another youth, who is to be sentenced later also dropped the bike on him. He also ran at him in a “striking manner”.

The student suffered a four centimetre laceration to the the back of his head from the hammer blow and received three staples as a result of the injury from this incident, Garda Moynihan said.

The student came face to face again with the trio in court last month when he gave a victim impact statement which he said he found difficult to express.

“They tried to kill me,” he had said, adding that he came to Ireland about five years ago, “to have a peaceful life”.

He said that when he came upon them, “they could have told me to go away”.

“I backed off, I had my hands in front say leave me, I don’t want this, they hit me with a hammer and I was lying on the ground pleading. They took my bag, I was helpless, I couldn’t do anything”.

He told the court he wanted justice. "If that happened to me it could happen to someone else,” he said.

He had lived in the area for more than four years but in the aftermath of the attack he left the area. He described feeling scared and still has nightmares

He said the incident affected his studies. His laptop had all his college notes and all his pictures of his deceased mother and father, “and they are lost”. His friends helped him with his college work “but still I lost that momentum”. He said, “I lost that energy” and “I wanted to be a cricket player, I lost that, I lost a big chunk of my life”.

He said that when he was in hospital after surviving the attack a doctor told him, “Congratulations on your new life”.

Judge O’Connor commended him for his bravery and for coming to court to give his insight into the “appalling incident”. He had said he hoped the student has not been left with a bad impression of Ireland but the student replied, “I would not paint everyone with the same brush”.

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