Former addict avoids jail for theatre pepper spray attack
A RECOVERING heroin addict has avoided jail for a vicious pepper-spray attack on audience members at a children's variety show.
Performers with the Spotlight Kids, a group of 72 young people from Inchicore in Dublin, had staged a variety show called 'Fantasy Street' at the Tivoli Theatre in Francis Street, Dublin.
But members of the audience and young performers had to be evacuated from the theatre after a substance was sprayed on some of the patrons.
Father-of-two Shane Carey (30), from Woodview Heights, Lucan, Dublin, who has serious health problems, was convicted yesterday at Dublin District Court of assaulting two men and two women in connection with the incident on April 27 last.
Judge Michael Walsh described the crime as a "nasty and vicious assault" and said it was traumatic for the victims.
He added that Carey had caused chaos at the theatre for audience members as well as the children in the cast of the show. But he held that jailing Carey, who suffers from a tumour on his pancreas, would not be in the public interest.
Victims Lisa Donohue, her husband Daragh Sandford, her sister Denise O'Byrne, and her husband Ronan O'Byrne told Dublin District Court that there was a vacant row of seats between them and a man who had a child on his lap.
Ms Donohue said he had been talking loudly throughout the first half of the show.
She told Judge Walsh that a substance was sprayed for a few seconds from over the right shoulder of the man, the effects of which left her with "burning to my face and to my throat".
She was very shaken, began coughing and needed water so she then left the auditorium, which was evacuated soon after.
Her husband Mr Sandford was also sprayed in the face.
Denise O'Byrne, who had taught many of the young performers in the show, said that "it was like a feeling of choking" and there was an "incredible burning sensation down my throat, in my eyes".
The court heard Carey had 26 prior convictions between 2003 and 2007 for forging prescriptions, burglary, theft, robbery and drugs possession.
Defence counsel Emmet Nolan asked the judge to note that Carey was a recovering heroin addict who had not offended between 2007 and the incident.
The judge suspended the five-month sentence on condition that Carey continues to take part in rehabilitation work and does not reoffend for the next 18 months.