I have ‘no confidence he can be rehabilitated’ says judge as she hands down sentence
A man has been jailed for biting off a college student’s ear because he put his arm around the attacker’s girlfriend for a photo.
Jake Smyth, who has 20 previous convictions, was sentenced to three years by Judge Rory McCabe at Castlebar Circuit Court last Friday.
Smyth (27) previously pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Stephen Reilly (21) at Bar Square, Garden Street, Ballina, Co Mayo.
Sergeant Martha O’Connor of Ballina Garda Station told the court Smyth and Mr Reilly had been socialising in separate groups in the smoking area of Bar Square in Ballina in the early hours of March 18, 2019.
Sgt O’Connor told the court that CCTV footage of the incident showed Reilly stepping into a selfie photograph with Smyth’s girlfriend and placing his arm around her.
Sgt O’Connor said the girl clearly looked annoyed and moments later took another photo into which Mr Reilly stepped again.
At this point, Smyth can be seen staring at Mr Reilly’s group of friends. Within seconds he grabbed Mr Reilly and bit him on the right ear for four to five seconds.
The court heard that Mr Reilly – who is in his final year of a degree in Finance and Economics in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology – was left deeply traumatised by the attack.
He has already undergone three surgeries and a report from a plastic surgeon said Mr Reilly – of Ballina, Co Mayo – would require further reconstruction surgeries, but would be left permanently disfigured.
He lost a significant portion of the outer area of his right ear, leaving him with a noticeable defect.
In a victim impact statement read to the court by Sgt O’Connor, Mr Reilly said he has been left mentally and physically scarred for life.
He said he suffers from constant pain and after three surgeries is now accustomed to waking with blood on his pillow and sheets.
He finds it very difficult to sleep and when he is out he is always looking over his shoulder.
He said that since the incident he no longer socialises in his home town of Ballina and has become very self-conscious of people looking at his ear and gets extremely stressed if anyone asks him what happened.
While he hopes that one day his physical pain will heal he doubts the mental burden of the attack will ever lift.
The court heard Smyth has 20 previous convictions including misuse of drugs, assault, public order offences, threatening and abusive behaviour, passing counterfeit notes and multiple road traffic offences.
Having been arrested following his identification on CCTV, Smyth didn’t co-operate with gardaí during three separate interviews.
Defence Counsel Des Dockery BL appealed for leniency and said there was no premeditation in his client’s actions and his early guilty plea saved the court time.
He said while Smyth’s crime was appalling it was a single incident of short duration.
He said Smyth was remorseful and came from a very good family with “two blameless parents and two very blameless siblings”.
He also said Smyth – of Stonehall, Foxford, Co Mayo – was heavily intoxicated at the time of the attack and while it didn’t mitigate his actions it could in some way explain his loss of control.
Judge McCabe said Smyth’s offence had an extremely significant impact on his victim, who was left permanently scarred.
Citing Smyth’s level of culpability as “very high”, Judge McCabe said there was very little in the way of mitigation of his “disgraceful conduct.”
“Mr Smyth says he is sorry; that’s the limit of it.”
Judge McCabe said that on examination of Smyth’s catalogue of previous convictions he had “no confidence he can be rehabilitated”, and jailed him for three years with no period of suspension.