Thursday 17 October 2019

'Culprit with a conscience' avoids jail despite leaving victim needing brain surgery

Declan McGowan leaving court. Photo: Collins
Declan McGowan leaving court. Photo: Collins
Assault victim Thomas Carter. Photo: Collins

Conor Gallagher

A MAN has avoided jail for attacking a student who later had to receive 41 stitches to the back of his head.

Declan McGowan (24) was convicted of assault causing harm to Thomas Carter but acquitted of the more serious charge of assault causing serious harm after he had pleaded not guilty.

The trial heard Mr Carter required brain surgery and suffered from bleeding within the skull.

Last month the victim told the court he did not want McGowan to go prison and described him as “a culprit with a conscience”. Today the pair shook hands outside Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

After the assault on Grafton Street McGowan, of North Circular Road, Dublin, told a near-by paramedic what happened. He also rang the hospital and a journalist who wrote about it to check on Mr Carter's condition.

Judge Patricia Ryan took this into account when she imposed a three year suspended sentence. She also ordered McGowan to do 60 hours community service if he is found suitable and to undergo one year probation supervision.

Garda Amy Kelly told Garret Baker BL, prosecuting, that Mr Carter and two friends had been drinking following the Champions League final.

An argument developed between Mr Carter and a rickshaw driver on Grafton Street when two of his friends ran away without paying. During the argument, Mr Carter knocked the driver’s hat off his head.

McGowan then “came out of nowhere” and punched Mr Carter who fell and knocked his head against the ground. McGowan was a friend of the rickshaw driver and mistakenly thought Mr Carter had struck him.

McGowan then walked away as the victim lay unconscious. He was chased by a friend of Mr Carter’s and there was another altercation before McGowan left the scene.

The court heard that McGowan became worried about his victim and ran to a nearby ambulance to report the head injury.

Mr Carter regained consciousness and went to his girlfriend’s house. The gardai were not alerted on the night.

The victim later became unwell and started vomiting. He was brought to hospital by ambulance but released the next morning. He again became ill and brain scans revealed bleeding within the skull.

An operation was carried out and Mr Carter required 41 staples afterwards.

A complaint was later made to gardai and a media campaign was launched to identify the attacker.

When McGowan heard about the seriousness of Mr Carter’s condition, he rang Beaumont Hospital and contacted an Evening Herald reporter to check up on him.

He was arrested soon afterwards. During interview he admitted punching the victim but claimed he was defending his friend, the rickshaw driver.

McGowan, who is an amateur boxer, was reduced to tears when shown photos of his victim’s injuries and vowed never to punch anyone again.

He told gardai: “If I had of known it would come to this, I never would have touched him.”

Conor Devally SC, defending, commended Mr Carter for adding an extra section to his victim impact statement detailing why he doesn't want McGowan to be jailed.

He described his attacker as a “culprit with a conscious” and noted that he had checked on his condition in Beaumont Hospital and apologised in person.

“I wouldn’t like to see him go to prison,” Mr Carter said.

Mr Devally pointed out that his client said he would gladly take the scar from his victim's head and put it on his own, if he could. 

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