Man behind pepper spray attack at Tivoli Theatre escapes jail after pleading guilty
A RECOVERING heroin addict has been given a five-month suspended sentence for a vicious pepper-spray attack on audience members at a children's variety show in Dublin
Performers with the Spotlight Kids, a group of 72 young people from Inchicore, in Dublin had staged a variety show – Fantasy Street – at the Tivoli Theatre in Francis Street for two nights as part of celebrations of the 10th anniversary of their stage school when an incident took place in the venue's auditorium.
The non-jury trial at Dublin District Court heard that 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 today 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”; he said it was a traumatic incident for the victims and that Carey had caused chaos at the theatre for audience members as well as the children in the cast of the show.
But the judge held that jailing Carey would not be in the public interest and it was clear he was already serving a sentence as a result of his medical ailments which include a tumour on his pancreas.
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 but she did not have any interaction with him because his party seemed intimidating.
She told Judge Walsh that a substance was sprayed for a few seconds from over the right shoulder of the man whom she described as wearing a baseball cap, a blue hoodie top and having a light moustache.
She said the effects of the spray came fast and 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 eyes also began to water, the court heard.
Her husband Daragh Sandford told the court that he leaned forward to hear the show and was an arm's length from the man who sprayed him and his wife in the face with a substance for about five to 10 seconds.
He called security and later saw the same man go to the toilets in the venue. He also said that he felt a burning sensation in his nose and later, when the show resumed, he rubbed his eyes they began to water up, “like I was crying”.
Ronan O'Byrne told the court that the man “sprayed us with a liquid spray” his eyes began streaming and he also felt burning in his nose.
He also told the court he saw the same man emerge from toilets in the venue after the incident.
His wife 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”
Garda Richard Moyston arrested Mr Carey and carried out a cursory search of him at the scene but all that was found on him was a Nicorette spray for helping smokers quit.
After he was taken in a garda van to Kevin Street Garda station a “dragon pepper-spray” cannister was found in the “cage” section where prisoners are held.
When interviewed, Carey told gardai that he may have sprayed the people with the Nicorette spray by mistake. He also claimed he had been attacked in the Tivoli, the court heard.
Judge Walsh heard that Carey had 26 prior criminal convictions amassed between 2003 and 2007 for forging prescriptions, burglary, theft, robbery and drugs possession.
Defence counsel Emmet Nolan asked the judge to note that Carey is a recovering heroin addict who had not offended since 2007 until the the date of the incident.
Medical evidence was given showing that Carey was suffering from a tumour on his pancreas and his on-going treatment would be affected if he were jailed.
He had held down jobs as a young man before he began abusing heroin but is now taking part in a rehabilitation programme for recovering addicts, the court heard.
The defence also asked the court to note evidence from his mother that since 2007 he has been trying to turn his life around.
The judge suspended the five-month sentence on condition that Carey continues to take part in rehabilitation work and does not re-offend for the next 18 months. “I hope you will learn a lesson from this,” he told the 30-year-old as he finalised the case.