Monday 21 October 2019

One-punch attacker who left victim with life-changing injuries must wait to hear outcome of appeal

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A first-time offender jailed for a one-punch assault which left his victim with “life-changing” injuries must wait to hear the outcome of an appeal against the severity of his sentence.

Mark O’Sullivan (29), of Old Connaught View, Bray, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to David Kirwan near the James Everett Park area of Bray on January 15, 2017.

Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court heard that O’Sullivan struck a single blow to Mr Kirwan’s head with his fist. He stayed at the scene and called an ambulance, placed Mr Kirwan in the recovery position and pleaded for him to wake up.

Mr Kirwan suffered catastrophic injuries and was placed in a medically induced coma following the assault for a number of days. He suffered brain damage and said he would never be able to work again due to ongoing seizures. He’s lost memories and the hearing in one ear.

O’Sullivan was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with the final two-and-a-half years suspended by Judge Michael O’Shea on April 28, 2018. He had no previous convictions.

Moving to appeal his sentence today, O’Sullivan’s barrister, Michael O’Higgins SC, submitted that the headline sentence of seven years was too high, given his client’s culpability.

Mr O’Higgins said O’Sullivan had been out “binge drinking” which led him to make false assumptions about verbal provocations from the victim.

He said the sentencing judge “correctly” found that the level of injuries sustained by Mr Kirwan could not have been foreseen - Gardaí believed Mr Kirwan hit his head off the ground after he was struck.

He said O’Sullivan remained shocked and consistently expressed remorse for his actions. He also accepted that his actions must be suitably punished in order to reflect the harm done.

However, Mr O’Higgins submitted that the ultimate sentence was disproportionate and out of kilter with the norm.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Eoghan Cole BL, said the attack was unprovoked and unjustified and the consequences for the victim were life-changing. While it was a single strike, he said it was a blow to the head of an unsuspecting victim.

Mr Cole, along with Lily Casey BL, submitted that it was impossible to characterise the offence as falling within the lower end of the scale of seriousness, given the harm caused to the injured party.

He said seven years was an appropriate starting point and the mitigating factors were reflected in the suspension of the final two-and-a-half years.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court would reserve judgment.

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