Sunday 18 March 2018

Family of Dale Creighton say sentences handed down to seven young people are 'too lenient'

Dale Creighton was beaten to death in Tallaght
Dale Creighton was beaten to death in Tallaght

Andrew Phelan

Five young men have been jailed for the manslaughter of Dale Creighton, who was kicked and beaten to death in a “prolonged and vicious attack” on a footbridge in Tallaght.

The accused were given jail time ranging from three to seven and a half years at the Central Criminal Court today.

A woman will be sentenced to a year in prison for violent disorder after a judge said her screaming and shouting “incited” the men involved in the frenzied assault.

A seventh accused, who also did not physically assault the victim but had a knife at the scene, had his two-year sentence suspended in full.

As the sentences were handed down, gasps and cries of “Jesus Christ”, and “shame” were heard from the public gallery where Mr Creighton’s family were sitting.

Speaking after the hearing, a family spokesperson said the sentences were “too lenient” and that Dale had been “the centre of their world”.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said while the accused were “not evil,” none of the seven had “shouted stop”.

Dale Creighton died following an assault at the footbridge over the Tallaght bypass between St Dominic’s Road and Greenhills Road in the early hours of New Year’s Day, 2014.

The Tallaght man had been accused of stealing a phone belonging to one of the accused, Aisling Burke, before he was confronted and beaten.

He died in hospital the following day, from blunt force injury to his head and face. The court heard his injuries were so severe his own family did not recognise him.

Today, the five who pleaded guilty to manslaughter were given 10-year sentences, with portions suspended.

Graham Palmer (26) was jailed for five years, Ross Callery (23) and Jason Beresford (23) for six each, David Burke (28) for seven and a half years, and Gerard Stephens (27) was jailed for three.

Aisling Burke (23)  is to be jailed for one year for violent disorder but the judge adjourned imposition of the sentence for a week, for the mother-of-one to make childcare arrangements. The judge said she will give her a five year sentence with the final four years suspended.

Judge Murphy said Aisling Burke had been screaming and roaring for the return of her phone while Mr Creighton was being assaulted.

This, the judge said, was a material contributing factor in the "frenzy of the final assault."

James Reid's two-year sentence for possession of a knife was suspended in full after the judge said she was satisfied that he did not participate in the assault. The court heard the knife had been taken from Mr Creighton and the judge accepted Reid (26) had not brought it to the scene.

The seven accused had originally been charged with murder and all had pleaded not guilty, but those charges were later dropped by the prosecution and they admitted lesser offences.

“The court is quite satisfied that the seven young people before the court are not evil people,” Judge Murphy said today.

“In the court’s view, they are not even bad people.”

She said they individually and collectively brought about the death of Mr Creighton in a “prolonged and vicious” attack.

She said the attack started at 3.52am on January 1, 2014 and ended at 4.06am - lasting 14 minutes, during which Mr Creighton was “mercilessly kicked and beaten.”

“During that beating not one of the seven people before the court shouted stop,” she said.

She said the assailants were “normal, average young people” and the fact that they could kill a person in such a way was “particularly frightening for society.”

Judge Murphy said the court had frequently encountered situations where young people “sorted out their differences between themselves.” This was not confined to Tallaght and could happen in “leafy suburbs” among the most privileged in society, she said.

The court wanted to make clear that “rough justice is no justice,” she continued.

The assailants had taken the law into their own hands and “brutally ended the life” of Dale Creighton,” she said.

The court heard the seven had been to the Plaza nightclub earlier with multiple free drinks included in the entrance fee. After it closed, Aisling Burke had her handbag with her phone stolen and raised a “hue and cry” with her brother David Burke.

Dale Creighton was later confronted and was seen to have a knife in his hand.

The subsequent beating he suffered by multiple parties continued unabated, long after the accused was able to protect himself or offer any resistance. The attack ended after Jason Beresford kicked a “prone” Mr Creighton full in the face “as if his face was a football,” before flinging his “limp body” down the steps.

After the hearing, family spokesperson Helena D’arcy said their lives had radically changed on New Year’s Day, 2014.

“Dale was then and still is the centre of our world,” she said. “The happiness and joy we once shared is now gone as we can no longer enjoy Dale’s presence in our lives. It is only through the unending and deep love we have for Dale that gives us the strength to move forward. Dale was a shy young man who loved his family unconditionally. He was loved by so many people, he had his whole life ahead of him. But on that dreadful New Year’s morning, those people decided it was their right to take it away.”

“Because of their vicious actions, we now have an everlasting ache in our hearts. While we appreciate the difficulty Judge Murphy had in sentencing these individuals, we as a family consider them to be too lenient, especially the one-year sentence of Aisling Burke and the suspended sentence of James Reid.”

Detective Superintendent Brian Sutton said he hoped that the result may bring the family “some bit of closure and some solace to the tragedy they have gone through over the last three years.”

“This was a difficult investigation and An Garda Siochana would like to thank the people of Tallaght who have come forward, yet again, in this investigation and assisted us in bringing about this outcome today,” Det Supt Sutton added.

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