Soldiers involved in drunken brawl escape jail sentences
Two soldiers involved in a violent drink-fuelled fight have been given a chance to stay in the Defence Forces after a judge gave them non-custodial sentences.
The court heard that they had faced being automatically discharged from the Army if they received custodial sentences, suspended sentences or fines of more than €800.
They will now face an army disciplinary tribunal, which will have the option to let them continue as soldiers.
Judge Martin Nolan imposed a two-and-a-half-year "deferred sentence" on Andrew Gilmore (25), who was judged to have played the more serious role in the attack.
A deferred sentence is a rarely used provision which means that, technically, Gilmore will not have received a custodial or suspended term.
This is conditional on him paying more than €3,000 to the two victims within six months. If he complies with this, the sentence will not be imposed.
His co-accused, Michael Kearney (30), was fined €500 after the judge noted he had a less violent role in the offence. The judge said he was imposing the sentences with the objective of giving the men a chance to save their careers. He said the matter was now up to the Army.
Gilmore, of Gormanstown Army Barracks, Co Meath, and Kearney, of Carlton Crescent, Strabane, Co Tyrone, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to violent disorder at Central Bank Plaza, Dublin, on February 9, 2012.
They were also charged with assault causing harm but these charges were not pursued by the State after the other pleas were entered.
Gda Frank Johnson told Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting, that the two men had been celebrating in Madonna's nightclub and left the venue after 3am. A row broke out between them and another two men and a woman.
Gilmore punched the first victim, Patrick Byrne, who was knocked unconscious. Gilmore also assaulted the man's friends, Thomas Roantree and the woman.
Gda Johnson said that another man, who disappeared after gardai arrived, received blows to the head and body, and that Mr Roantree was kicked while he was on the ground.
He said CCTV footage showed Kearney kicking somebody on the ground once.
Gilmore tried to run from gardai but was arrested that night and Kearney went to gardai the following night. Both men admitted their parts in the fight and entered early guilty pleas.
All of the victims have recovered from their injuries. Neither accused have any other convictions and neither have come to the attention of gardai since. Gda Johnson described the incident as a "night of binge drinking that went wrong".
Michael Bowman BL, defending Gilmore, said his client came from a decent family and was ashamed of his actions. He said he had no alcohol difficulties, although it had played a part in this incident.
Michael Vallely BL, defending Kearney, said his client was a married father of one with six years' service in the Army. He has served in Kosovo and been ranked as a potential non-commissioned officer.