Tuesday 20 March 2018

Suspended sentence for boy who fractured another teen's skull with hammer over €50 cannabis deal

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Stock picture

Isabel Hayes

A south Dublin schoolboy who fractured another teen's skull with a hammer over €50 worth of cannabis has avoided a custodial sentence.

The 17-year-old boy from Foxrock, Dublin, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to his victim, who also can't be named, at Blackrock, Co Dublin on January 25 last year.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the boy, then 16, armed himself with his father's hammer and struck his victim, a fourth year secondary school student, on the forehead, causing a fractured skull and internal bleeding. The pair had never met before.

Afterwards his victim was left with serious injuries and had to drop down a level in school.

Judge Martin Nolan had remanded the boy in custody over the weekend, telling him “I want you to take note of your surroundings over the next two or three days because that may be your future.”

Today he imposed a three and a half year suspended sentence along with two years probation supervision.

Judge Nolan called it a “deeply reprehensible” assault. “For no apparent reason and without any legitimate provocation, (he) attacked the injured party with a hammer. He intended to cause serious injury to that young boy”.

Addressing the teen he said: “If you have a conscience, what you did should affect you greatly. I think you have to carry it with you and you should carry it.”

The teen smiled and shook hands with his legal team and the garda after the sentence was handed down.

Prosecuting counsel Paul Carroll, BL, said the incident occurred after two opposing groups of teenage boys arranged to meet at Blackrock in relation to a dispute over a €50 cannabis deal.

The court heard the accused's friend had reneged on a deal to supply cannabis to the victim's friends ahead of a party. After a series of calls and texts between both groups of boys, it was arranged they would meet up in Blackrock.

The boy told gardaí he initially brought the hammer to the meeting “for protection” and because it was “better to be safe than sorry”, the court heard.

But Mr Carroll said the boy told gardaí he “got angrier during the day” after he took a phone call from a member of the other gang who shouted at him.

After the groups met in a laneway around 6pm, the boy hit the victim on the forehead once and attempted to strike him another couple of times. When asked by gardaí why he did it, the boy said: “I was stupid enough to think it was a good idea to hit him with it.”

When asked by gardaí if there was an argument beforehand, the boy said, “There had been an awkward atmosphere but no argument really”, Mr Carroll told the court. He said he had never seen his victim before.

The victim was rushed to hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding to the brain. The accused was arrested at his home by gardaí after several boys identified him from the scene.

He immediately showed them the hammer and a bat – which one of his friends had brought to the meeting – hidden in bushes in his front garden.

The victim read out a victim impact statement in court in which he said his injury had given him “a great deal of stress and pain” over the last year.

“Over the last year, I've had terrible trouble leaving my house without a friend or family member,” he said. The victim said he had had to drop down from honours level Leaving Cert to do the Leaving Cert Applied course, which meant he would miss out on going to university.

“It's put my future on hold,” he said.

Defence barrister Sandra Frayne, BL, said her client was extremely sorry and she asked the judge not to impose a custodial sentence.

“He was very lucky the injured party wasn't killed in this case and he's aware of that,” she said.

She said the boy grew up in a supportive family but became addicted to drugs from the age of 13. She said he had tried to take his own life on two prior occasions.

The boy's father gave evidence that his son did well and was “highly regarded” by his teachers in primary school, but became involved in a “culture of drinking and drugs” at the private secondary school he attended.

Since the incident, he had enrolled in a specialist addiction centre for teenage addicts and had “turned his life around”, his father said.

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