A man who pleaded guilty to glassing a promising Dublin GAA player in the eye in a nightclub, ending his dream to play with the senior team, has been sentenced three years in prison.
Stephen Howe was 22 when he smashed the glass into 19-year-old Aaron Duffy’s face while both men were in a line for the toilets at the Wrights Cafe Bar in Swords, Dublin on December 23, 2017.
The victim had to undergo surgery to treat a “severe perforation” and prolapse of his left eye.
The attack had a massive detrimental effect on Mr Duffy’s life, resulting in the end of a long-term relationship, the ending of his dream to play with the Dublin senior team, and treatment for depression and self harm.
His work as a plumber also suffered.
A medical report from September 2018 stated the eye now has satisfactory vision but that there is a permanent scar to the cornea
Howe, of Brookdale Road, Rivervalley, Swords, had been on bail for a motoring offence at the time of the attack.
At the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today counsel for Howe appealed to judge Elma Sheahan to show leniency in sentencing, saying that Howe would lose his job with the British Army if given a custodial sentence.
He said the accused had been devastated by the words in Aaron Duffy’s victim impact statement, and had a serious conversation with his own father afterwards on how to change his life, and ultimately applied to join the British Army, something which led to repercussions from his friends.
Howe had gone on to serve in Kabul, where he was injured, and had since self-harmed with a knife, the Circuit Criminal Court heard.
A lieutenant from the British Army was in court to verify that Howe would lose his position if given a custodial sentence, but was not called upon to give evidence.
Judge Sheahan said the maximum sentence was five years, and that the evidence was Mr Duffy was in the queue for the toilet minding his own business, and the evidence from the CCTV footage appeared to show a jovial and pleasant atmosphere which changed when Howe suddenly attacked Mr Duffy with a glass.
“One cannot but be moved by the fact that the victim had worked since he was a boy to play for the senior Dublin team,” she said.
She added that the attack was a “gratuitous and mindless act of violence”.
Judge Sheahan said that the fact Howe could gain a position and serve in the British Army and get a posting in Kabul was evidence that he can be held responsible for his actions.
She said the attack was “unacceptable at every level”.
In mitigation she took Howe’s guilty plea, remorse, offer of compensation, hospital admission for self harm, and his job with the British Army, into consideration.
But she explained that the attack was at the highest level of offending and carried a possible five year sentence.
With mitigating elements Judge Sheahan said a sentence of three years and six months, with the last six months suspended, was to be handed down.