Monday 19 March 2018

Probable future Ireland international avoids jail for role in fatal attack

Conor Gallagher and Declan Brennan

A TALENTED footballer who is expected to play for Ireland in the future has avoided a jail term for taking part in a fatal attack on a man.

The 17-year-old, who cannot be named due to the Children Act, was charged with assault causing harm after punching and kicking the victim and was judged to have played a less serious role in the attack.

His co-accused Ryan Greene (20) was sentenced to five and a half years with two suspended after he was charged with manslaughter.

Joseph Connolly (48) died in Beaumont hospital after sustaining skull fractures and bleeding on the brain during the assault on St Patricks Day, 2011. He was attacked by the pair after being a “nuisance to their group.”

The court heard the younger attacker, who was 15 at the time, plays with a prominent football club in Ireland and has had multiple trials with an English Premier League Club.

His defence counsel said it is believed he has a future as a professional footballer and with the national team.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring imposed a three year sentence, suspended in full for three years as well as 12 months probation supervision. She accepted he played the less serious part but said that “he should never forget his role in this attack on a man old enough to be his father.”

Referring to Greene she said that “a custodial sentence must be imposed, a man is dead.” She imposed a five and half year term with the final two suspended. She said that there must be an element of deterrence in cases of street attacks

“The court can only lament that it appears to be no longer fashionable to turn the other cheek and walk away,” the judge commented. “People, particularly young people, must learn to walk away.”

“It is a sad feature of this case that the national holiday of the country was the last day Mr Connolly’s life,” the judge continued. “Mr Connolly was a man of equal value to society as anyone else.”

Greene of Knowth Court, Poppintree, Dublin 11, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the unlawful killing of Joseph Connolly on the Ballymun Road, Ballymun on March 18, 2011. His co-accused pleaded guilty to assault causing harm on the same occasion.

Detective Garda Ronan McMorrow told Colm O’Briain BL, prosecuting, that the victim was drunk and stumbling on the footpath when a young girl who was also drunk was seen kissing him.

She was part of a group, including the two accused, who had arranged to meet at the Dynasty Chinese restaurant on Ballymun Road, Ballymun.

Mr Connolly began making rude gestures and blowing kisses at the group and Greene’s then girlfriend left the restaurant to give out to Mr Connolly, calling him a pervert.

Mr Connolly went to put his arm around the girl to hug her.

Detective McMorrow said that there was never a suggestion of a threat from him and that he was being “a nuisance”.

The 15-year-old came up to the victim and said: “what are you doing, you perv?” and punched him in the side of the face. The victim slumped down to the ground.

Greene approached him and kicked him with some force in the face before punching him twice in the head.

Both men then kicked the victim again before walking away. Mr Connolly died around noon the next day as a result of fractures to the skull causing pressure on the brain.

After hearing that the man had died the two youths went to gardai the next day and made admissions.

Greene told gardai: “It was unintended. It was just an argument that went wrong”.

The younger accused said: “I hit the man because I was angry he was making faces. I didn’t think I hit him that hard. I just forgot about it, I didn’t think it was anything serious. I feel puzzled. I’m very upset”.

Neither of the youths had come to garda attention before and the younger teen was still at school at the time.

The detective agreed with Sean Gillane SC, defending Greene, that his client was a quiet boy who had attended school. Greene’s brother had died as a result of drug abuse and he had faced huge challenges in the background of his life, counsel said.

Both accused read a letter in court addressed to the Connolly family apologising for the attack.

A victim impact report from Mr Connolly’s family was given to Judge Ring but not read out in court.

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