Wednesday 15 August 2018

Man jailed for three years for the attempted murder of a teenager at Dublin's Hellfire club

  • Michael Corbett (28), with an address in Raheny, Dublin 5, was sentenced to nine years in prison, but had six years suspended as he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time
  • He had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the attempted murder of a 17-year-old boy near the Hellfire Club in Dublin mountains
  • The boy had been camping there with his two friends
  • Corbett assaulted both of his friends as they came to his aid
  • He attempted to slash teen boy's throat, before stabbing him in the chest and hitting him in the head
  • Outside the court, the victim said sentence was "ridiculous", but added it was "the law,not justice'
  • Judge praised all three victims
The Hell Fire Club on Montpelier Hill in the Dublin Mountains Photo: Tony Gavin
The Hell Fire Club on Montpelier Hill in the Dublin Mountains Photo: Tony Gavin

Natasha Reid

A 28-year-old Dubliner has been jailed for three years for attempting to murder a teenager and assaulting his two friends as they camped at a popular hiking spot.

Michael Corbett was sentenced to nine years in prison for his crimes, but had six years suspended as he was suffered from paranoid schizophrenia at the time.

The father-of-one, of no fixed abode but with a previous address in Raheny, Dublin 5, had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the attempted murder of the 17-year-old on June 27, 2016 at the Hellfire Club on Dublin's Montpelier Hill.

Mr Justice Michael White had previously praised the young man’s two friends for coming to his aid only to be assaulted themselves. During the sentencing earlier today, he praised Corbett’s first victim, who had received a four-inch stab wound to his chest during the attack.

The judge said he had shown ‘considerable courage’ on the day, when he was just short of his 18th birthday. His friends, a man and woman, were 18 and 19. They are not being named for legal reasons.

Justice White noted that all had suffered considerable stress, which he said was ongoing. He said that the first victim was ‘close to losing his life’.

“It’s luck more than anything else that dictated that he survived and recovered,” he said.

He noted medical reports, which showed that the accused was suffering from the severe mental disability, paranoid schizophrenia, at the time.

“He had responsibility that was quite significantly diminished by his illness,” he added.

Corbett had severe difficulties historically, which had been severely exacerbated by his own behaviour, namely his abuse of alcohol and drugs, he said.

“That’s an aggravating factor,” he explained.

He said that it was appropriate to impose a substantial custodial sentence and suspend a substantial portion of it so that the accused could be supervised by probation services and be medically monitored.

“He’s now on a programme of medication which, if he continues on, will stabilise his psychosis,” he said.

He noted that the illness would manifest itself again if Corbett stopped taking his medication or returned to alcohol or drugs.

He imposed a sentence of nine years, with six years suspended on specific conditions to be finalised on receipt of a probation report on July 31st.

He remanded Corbett in custody until then.

The young man and woman, who were assaulted after the attempted murder of their friend, spoke outside of their disappointment at the suspension of six years of his sentence.

The young man described it as "ridiculous".

“It’s law, not justice,” he said, but added that he trusted the judge’s opinion.

“I’m afraid of people, normal people,” he explained of the ongoing effects of the attack. “I shouldn’t have to worry that someone might just hit me out of nowhere, completely unprovoked… We shouldn’t have to be afraid. It shouldn’t be this way.”

The young woman said that they were angry at the suspension of six years and that it was really hard to come to court and see the man, who had attacked them.

“I can remember his eyes when he looked at me,” she said. “He’s looking at all of us the same way.”

“I thought we were dead,” she said, adding that she was thankful that it had happened during the day and not in the dark of night.

She explained that she used to be a leader, who could get up in front of people and speak.

“Now, I just feel that I’m fragile,” she said.

They both felt they were lucky to be alive and thanked their families for their support.

At a hearing last month, Luán Ó Braonáin SC, prosecuting, told the Central Criminal Court that Corbett’s guilty plea had been entered on the basis that two other counts would be taken into consideration. Corbett had also been charged with assault causing the harm of the teenager’s then girlfriend and their male friend; they were both 18.

Garda Pauline Glennon of Tallaght Garda Station testified that the three teenagers had gone camping. The young woman’s mother dropped them to the car park on the Killakee Road around lunchtime and they had hiked up the hill.

She told Mr Ó Braonáin that they had set up their camp beside the ruin of the hunting lodge, pitching their tent and setting a fire. The 17-year-old had a knife in a sheath to cut branches.

She explained that the three had noticed the accused, who had set up camp 50 metres away. He had approached to introduce himself and they'd sat around the campfire chatting for a couple of hours.

It was decided that more firewood was needed and the 17-year-old went off to find some. The accused went with him, while the other two teenagers went off in another direction.

Unbeknownst to the three, Corbett had taken the knife with him.

As the 17-year-old was about to get firewood, he was grabbed from behind by the accused, who put his left hand across his mouth and attempted to cut his throat with the knife.

He was sliced across the throat three times before he managed to push his attacker away. He fell to the ground and Corbett then stabbed him in the chest. The knife broke, leaving the blade embedded in his chest.

The knife no longer being useful, Corbett picked up a log and hit the teenager on top of his head with it.

The other two friends noticed that something was happening and attempted to intervene.

The young woman was first on the scene, where Corbett punched her to the face. She was knocked to the ground and pulled by her hair off her boyfriend.

The third teenager was also assaulted. He told gardai that the accused was annoyed that they’d had a knife, asking them why they’d had it and accusing them of trying to attack him.

He was told that they had it for camping and that they’d leave and he could keep the knife if he wanted.

However, he then started stamping on his first victim’s head and pulling his hair. The two other teenagers again tried to go to his aid, but Corbett knocked the young man to the ground and began to stamp on his head too.

He escaped and managed to run for help. He came across people near the ruin but the accused followed and suggested that he was the person being attacked.

Corbett ran off into the forest once the emergency services were called. The gardai were given his first name and a description, including the fact that he had a Mohican-style haircut.

The 17-year-old was treated for a stab wound to his chest, blunt trauma to his head and lacerations to his face, neck, and eye. He had remained conscious and the blade was removed from his chest with ultrasound guidance.

The judge was shown photos of his injuries as well as those of the other two victims.

Gardai eventually located the accused near the scene and he gave a false name. When asked if he had been involved in a row, he said that he had been attacked by two men and a girl, whom he described as ‘weirdos’, He said that one of the males had a knife.

During his garda interviews, he said he’d got ‘a strange vibe off the tall fella’. He said he’d noticed the knife on the ground and had put it in his pocket.

He said he felt the three were having ‘a coded conversation, fairly strange,’ and that they didn't seem to be the nice teens he’d thought they were. He said the conversation had turned a bit dark and that he got a bad vibe off the person he described as the leader.

He agreed that he had assaulted each of the three, hitting one of the males in the head with a tree stump and pushing and punching the girl in the face. However, he said he didn’t think he had stabbed anyone.

When asked why he thought these three people would attack him, he replied that they were three ‘effing loop the loops. It was just weird’.

He has been in custody since, spending much of that time in the Central Mental Hospital.

The barrister then read victim impact statements prepared by his three victims.

The youngest man described the four-inch stab wound to his chest muscle, as well as the other physical injuries.

He said that he had since become more distrusting of strangers and has difficulty communicating with new people. He has increased anxiety and has experienced some vivid flashbacks.

He described a huge rush of shock and panic when the attack began.

“He didn’t say anything. He just started to slice my throat,” he recalled, explaining that he had remained conscious throughout.

“I felt like this was the end and almost accepted myself that this was when I was going to die,” he added.

He said that he was now much more wary of strangers and what they might be capable of, especially as his attacker had spent time chatting with them.

He said that he’d decided against professional psychiatric help for financial reasons, but hoped to pursue this in the future.

The young woman said that she had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had suffered night terrors. She has seen numerous counsellors, but is still ‘completely and utterly paranoid’ even with friends and family.

She has lost friendships, relationships and her dream job.

“I can’t look anyone in the eye and can’t trust anyone,” she said. “I can’t walk down the street on my own. I cry myself to sleep every night.”

She said she now lacked trust in people, including those she loves.

“I’m afraid to be alone,” she said. “I hate myself because of this.”

She said she used to be a person people looked up to.

“Now I feel like a nobody, worthless, sh*t,” she concluded.

The third victim said he was struck with shock and required valium to calm down after the attack. He had also been diagnosed with PTSD, required counselling for several weeks and was confined to his house for several weeks.

He, too, needs to have others in his company and has lost jobs and close friends.

“I now live thinking it will happen again,” he said.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, handed in the report of a forensic psychiatrist, who said his client suffered from a deep-seated mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia, and that he’d had an acute psychotic episode that day.

He had been sectioned six months earlier, he noted.

The judge said that the three teenagers were engaged in the innocent pastime of camping in an area known by many Dubliners as a nice place for a summer’s evening walk.

He said they had been confronted by a man ‘in the throes of a very serious mental illness’. One of them had been very close to losing his life.

“His young friends had to witness it and, displaying wonderful courage, came to his assistance,” he said. “I must commend them for preventing what would have been either lifelong injuries... or in fact his death.”

He also said that it was clear from the reports that Corbett’s mother had been ‘stretched to her wits’ end’ and was doing her best to get him help.

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