Wednesday 17 July 2019

Teen who threw stone at young actor's head in assault with 'undertones of homophobia' is jailed

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Sonya McLean and Jessica Magee

A teenager who threw a stone at another teen’s head in what the victim perceived as a homophobic attack has been jailed for one year.

The victim, a young actor, has been left with a permanent facial scar after a cut above his right eye needed 11 stitches.

The 18-year-old accused pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to assault causing harm in a Dublin suburb on July 17, 2016.

Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, Judge Melanie Greally said it had been an “extremely nasty assault” with “undertones of homophobia” in some of the abuse hurled at the victim.

She said although the perpetrator denies the homophobic aspect to the attack, the words heard by the injured party “speak for themselves”.

Judge Greally said the accused and another boy threw several large stones or rocks at the victim’s head, one of which struck him over the eye causing a permanent scar and leaving him anxious and fearful.

The court heard that the victim had lost out on an acting opportunity in Belgium because of his scar.

The judge sentenced the youth to three years in prison but suspended the final two years, giving credit for the fact that he had expressed remorse and was aged 15 when he committed the offence. She said although the law now viewed him as an adult, “he is still a child in many respects, still immature and developing”.

Judge Greally noted the extremely unstable, neglectful and abusive circumstances of the youth’s childhood, which saw him in and out of various care homes from the age of 14.

The court heard that the case was repeatedly adjourned last year after the youth went missing from his care home 20 times over a three-month period.

He has 24 previous convictions for assault, theft, burglary, criminal damage and trespass.

At a previous hearing, Garda Eoin Brennan told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that the teenager had come to further garda attention since a court appearance last July. The cases are all pending before the courts but he is suspected to have been involved in a burglary, a mugging, two assaults and criminal damage. He has also been convicted of criminal damage.

His key worker for the teenager said he was due to undergo an anger management course, but he was still addicted to cannabis. He has also been diagnosed with ADHD.

Judge Greally noted from a report before the court that the Probation Services “seem to have reached the end of the line” in its dealings with the teenager.

Gda Brennan told Ms Boyle that the 16-year-old victim and his 11-year-old brother were walking their dog on a local green when the defendant and another youth came over.

The victim later told gardaí that the boys called him “a dope” and “a fag” and were saying he was gay. He tried to ignore them before he felt a stone hitting his head above his right eye.

Gda Brennan said “he fell backwards, got very dizzy and everything became very blurry”. The victim felt blood pouring down his face and managed to ring his parents. The other two youths ran off.

Gda Brennan said the victim was taken by ambulance to hospital and got stitches around his right eye and temple.

He stated in a victim impact report read by Ms Boyle, that his scar was “a constant reminder that I was attacked because of my sexuality”.

“I live in fear simply because I am gay. I have no confidence in my looks because of the scar,” the victim said, before he added that he is living with stress and anxiety. He said one day he tried to jump out in front of traffic.

The teenager said he believed he had lost out on a lot of potential acting jobs because of the scar.

Jane Murphy BL, defending, said her client had since “expressed shock about how the injury escalated to the level of seriousness that it did”.

She said the accused had just spent a week in custody at Mountjoy Prison and was “shocked and traumatised” by being in an adult prison and having to share a cell with three men in their forties.

Judge Greally strongly recommended that the teenager be transferred to Wheatfield Prison. She asked prison officers to indicate to their superiors that Mountjoy Prison was “entirely inappropriate” for someone of his age.

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