Wednesday 18 September 2019

Homeless woman jailed for slashing stomach of man who came to help her in street

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Jessica Magee and Sonya McLean

A young homeless woman who gave birth in custody has been sentenced to six years in prison for slashing the stomach of a man who came to help her in the street.

Donna Dineen (23) inflicted a a 25cm stab wound on a stranger who said he heard her arguing with a man and thought she needed help.

Dineen of Cedar House hostel, Dublin claimed on arrest that she had acted in self-defence after the injured party pulled a knife on her.

“If he was there to help, I wouldn't have done that to him,” she told gardaí.

She pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm of Saurjan Syergaz (27) at St Benedict's Gardens, North Circular Road on May 8, 2017.

Dineen further admitted producing a knife and robbing the man's wallet on the same occasion. She has 17 previous convictions for minor offences.

Garda Conor Mackey told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that the injured man left a trail of blood from Dorset Street up North Circular Road, ending in a pool of blood at St Benedict's Garden from what gardaí described as his “horrific slash wound”.

A co-accused man has also been charged in relation to the offences, but he cannot be named as his case is currently before the courts.

Dineen gave birth to her first child, a son, in March of this year at the Dóchas Centre in Mountjoy Prison.

Judge Melanie Greally sentenced Dineen to concurrent terms of six years for the robbery offence and five years for the assault. She suspended the final two years on strict conditions.

She said she had taken into account “the large amount of information in the reports” before the court. She said there was “no doubt” that Dineen had an “extremely unstable youth and early life”, noting that she had been a victim of both violence and sexual abuse and had a considerable dependancy on drugs and alcohol.

Judge Greally said she had also considered a letter Dineen had written to the court “expressing her regrets for her actions and her hopes for the future as a mother to her child”.

At a sentence hearing last July Carol Doherty BL, defending, asked the court to consider a suspended sentence so Dineen could attend a rehabilitation centre where she would be able to keep her baby with her for a further 18 months.

Under current regulations, a woman who gives birth in custody can only keep the baby with her in prison for 12 months, whereupon the child is released into the care of the HSE.

Ms Doherty said Dineen had written an eloquent letter to court in which she fully accepted her role in the offence and was deeply remorseful.

The court heard Dineen had a tragic background and had been a victim of abuse at the hands of several people all her life which haunts her every day, leading her to remain trapped in a cycle of drink and drug addiction.

Counsel said she was doing very well in custody and wanted to start life afresh with her baby son.

“Motherhood is not easy, but motherhood in custody is an added difficulty,” said Ms Doherty.

Evidence

Garda Mackey said that the injured party had been out drinking with friends on the night in question.

Mr Syergaz, originally from Mongolia but living in Ireland for 13 years, told gardaí he had met friends in a city centre bar and then gone on to a friend's house in Phibsboro, leaving around midnight.

Mr Syergaz said that as he walked home by the Mater Hospital he heard a lady shouting and arguing with a man and saw that she needed help.

He said he walked over to help but both the man and woman turned on him and started to kick and punch him.

Mr Syergaz said he fell to the ground and the man walked away, but the lady came back, kicked him and took his wallet from his pocket, containing about €20 or €30 in cash.

The injured party said he managed to sit up and was punched and kicked again, but after a few minutes he got up and started to walk home.

A plain clothes garda approached him, noticed his heavily blood-stained t-shirt and asked was he ok.

Mr Syergaz said he was not ok and realised himself that he was covered in blood, he had a very big cut and his stomach was open. He began to feel sick and was taken to the Mater Hospital where he underwent an operation on his stomach the following day.

A medical report said Mr Syergaz presented with the major trauma of a large, 25 cm laceration from his left abdomen to his left flank, and blood spurting from the wound. He also had a nasal fracture and bruising around his eyes.

Doctors said Mr Syergaz was drunk but alert and did not recall what had happened. Mr Syergaz made a victim impact statement but has since returned to Mongolia.

The court heard that prior to this offence, gardaí had been called to a disturbance in the Mater Hospital between Dineen and the co-accused man.

Dineen and the co-accused were later identified on CCTV footage from the area engaging with Mr Syergaz and a short time later running back from the scene of the assault.

When arrested, Dineen accepted that she had been asked to leave the Mater Hospital because she was being too aggressive.

She claimed that when she and the co-accused met Mr Syergaz on the street, he already had his injuries, and that he grabbed her jacket and tried to pull her. She said he pulled out a blade which she wrested off him, and that he punched her and she punched him back.

Dineen claimed that Mr Syergaz had not come over to help her, but instead said that he had pulled out a blade which she managed to get off him.

When shown CCTV of Mr Syergaz stumbling and covered in blood, gardaí asked her if she accepted that she had robbed him, assaulted him and given him a “horrific slash wound”, to which she replied “yeah”.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News