Monday 19 March 2018

Builder jailed for 'vicious' attack on musician in pub

Michael Folan
Michael Folan
Trad musician Noel Hill was attacked and savagely assaulted in a pub toilet by Michael Folan

Ann Healy

A builder has been jailed for four years for a "horrible, nasty and vicious attack" on traditional Irish musician Noel Hill in a pub toilet.

Mr Hill's left eye socket was pushed back into his skull "like an egg in an eggcup" during the assault on St Stephen's night 2008, with plastic surgeon Patrick McCann having to replace the damaged bone under the socket with titanium mesh.

Michael Folan (55), from Teach Mór, Lettermullen, Co Galway, had initially pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to Mr Hill (57) at Tí Padraig Mairtín Beag in Leitir Mór, Connemara, when his trial opened at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last November.

He changed his plea to guilty on the second day of the trial after Mr Hill gave harrowing evidence of the lifelong injuries he sustained on the night to a stunned jury.

Yesterday, Folan was sentenced to seven years in prison, with the final three years suspended by Judge Rory McCabe, who said this had been a horrible, nasty and vicious attack with appalling consequences for the victim.

Sergeant Ronan Mahon told the sentencing hearing in February that Mr Hill had been in the pub with his partner and was viciously assaulted from behind when he was standing in a cubicle with the door open.

He was punched severely in the mouth and left eye, knocked to the ground and kicked with full force in the head and body. He suffered a fracture to his skull and his left eye was driven back into his skull. He underwent lengthy reconstructive surgery to his eye socket.

Mr Hill spent 25 minutes in the witness box in February reading his victim impact statement aloud.

"I was certain I was going to die. I had a near-death experience. I saw my late father and uncle and my father told me I was not ready to join them.

"In my mind, I believed Michael Folan intended to kill me that night," a tearful Mr Hill said at the time.

"I am a professional musician but I cannot play for long periods anymore. My left side is still weak, six years later," he said.

Mr Hill knew the accused as a builder who had carried out work on a house Mr Hill was renovating in Pointe, Carraroe. The court previously heard the assault centred on a dispute over payment for the work.

Judge McCabe previously adjourned sentencing after hearing Folan had serious health issues himself and was attending counselling for alcohol and anger management issues.

Bernard Madden SC, defending, also handed in several medical and addiction counselling reports which stated the accused had engaged well with services to address his alcohol and anger management issues.

Mr Madden said his client was the sole carer for his ill wife and was being treated himself for chronic illnesses.

Afterwards, Mr Hill thanked his family and friends for their support and help since the night of the attack. However, he criticised how the accused delayed the criminal case by insisting for so long that his trial be heard in Irish.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News