Sunday 20 May 2018

Homeless man jailed for punching pregnant woman in the stomach

Stock picture
Stock picture

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A homeless man who punched a pregnant woman in the stomach in an unprovoked attack in Dublin City Centre has been jailed.

Bernard McGrath (27) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting Barbara O'Beirne on Burgh Quay on November 23, 2016.

Garda Niall Reilly told Derek Cooney BL, prosecuting, that Ms O'Beirne, who was 23-weeks pregnant at the time of the assault, had left work at approximately 5pm and was walking through the city centre with a colleague.

He told the court that while crossing the road Ms O'Beirne passed by a man who then ran out into the moving traffic and began shouting at cars who were beeping at him.

“The defendant then turned and faced Ms O'Beirne and punched her very hard in the stomach,” Gda Reilly said.

The court heard that McGrath then said to Ms O'Beirne “Boo hoo, you're pregnant.”

Gda Reilly said Ms O'Beirne was in complete shock and in pain and could not feel her baby moving in the aftermath of the attack.

She made her way to a nearby hotel and subsequently travelled to Holles Street hospital where she received a scan.

In a victim impact statement Ms O'Beirne said a punch in the stomach was every pregnant woman's worst nightmare.

She said the attack left her feeling very vulnerable and scared, but that thankfully she gave birth to a happy and healthy baby girl a couple of months later.

Ms O'Beirne described McGrath as “a danger to people on the streets” and added that she hoped he received help for his mental health issues.

Edel Gilligan BL, defending, said that McGrath was a heroin addict who had a very troubled childhood.

Ms Gilligan said he spent time in foster care and was then looked after by his grandparents.

This arrangement came to an end however when his grandmother went on trial accused of murdering his grandfather.

Ms Gilligan said that as Ms O'Beirne was wearing a padded jacket at the time of the attack McGrath maintained he was unaware that she was pregnant.

The court heard that McGrath, who is schizophrenic, had been taking his medication while in custody and suffered from “very complex moods.”

He has 21 previous convictions, all at District Court level.

In sentencing, Judge Terence O'Sullivan described the attack as “deeply cowardly and bizarre incident”. He said that it was very fortuitous that Ms O'Beirne's baby was unharmed.

Judge O'Sullivan sentenced McGrath to three years with the final nine months suspended on the condition that he engage fully with the probation services.

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