Friday 19 January 2018

UK-based Limerick rugby player spared sentence which would have cost him his career

A Limerick rugby player who plays for UK first division team Nottingham has been spared a custodial sentence which would have ended his rugby career.

Neilus Keogh (26), formerly of Milltown Hall, Mount St Annes, Milltown, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm on Michael Frisby (56) at Sporting Emporium, Anne's Lane, Dublin 2 on April 5 2012.

Keogh, who is originally from Limerick but now lives in the UK,  was given twelve months to complete alcohol and anger management courses and was required to return to the court in a year with an additional €10k to show “real remorse”.

Garda Jennifer Keyes told Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting that Mr Frisby was playing cards with eight other people in the Sporting Emporium casino where he regularly played cards. Keogh, whom he had never seen before, was sitting to the victim's left.

Gda Keyes said there was “good banter” at the table but when Keogh lost money in a hand he stood up and out of the blue hit Mr Frisby to the face and threw a chair down on top of him.

Mr Frisby was taken to St James' Hospital where it was discovered that he had suffered three broken bones in his face and had damaged nerves around his mouth. An operation was required to insert two metal plates in his face held together by eight steel screws.

In a victim impact report read out in court, Mr Frisby said he had no chance to defend himself and was struck with a chair while lying unconscious on the floor.

Gda Keyes agreed with defence counsel, Ronan Kennedy BL, that Keogh appeared generally remorseful for what he had done and that he caused no further disturbance in the casino following the assault on Mr Frisby.

Counsel explained to the court that Keogh had a clause in his contract which would terminate if convicted of an indictable offence. “If the court convicted him it would effectively bring his rugby career to an end,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr Kennedy said his client was fully aware of the hurt and distress he had caused Mr Frisby. He wrote a letter to Mr Frisby but following legal consultation, was advised the letter should be presented to court yesterday.

He said the assault was out of character and having read Mr Frisby's victim impact report yesterday morning, “he was clearly moved”.

Judge Patrick McCartan said the assault on Mr Frisby was borderline between what is harm and what is serious harm and Keogh was lucky the offence was not more serious.

The judge said Mr Frisby will carry metal plates for the remainder of his life which he can feel when he lies on them and during cold weather. All of that was as a result of what the accused man did that night.

On the other side, the judge said, was the argument that Keogh's career as a rugby player would come to an end if he received a custodial sentence.

Judge McCartan said: “'I don't think anybody's interest would be served by him going to prison.'

Keogh's career would be over, he would be left with a stigma for the rest of his life and the taxpayer would pay for his incarceration, Judge McCartan said. “We would all be losers if this man goes to prison.”

The Judge said Mr Frisby struck him as a man who wouldn't get satisfaction from seeing Keogh spend time behind bars.

He adjourned the case for a period of 12 months so Keogh could complete alcohol and anger management courses.

Judge McCartan also ordered that he will “by whatever means” bring €10k in addition to the €3k he brought to court yesterday, as a gesture of real remorse.

“This is an incident which occurred 90 odd weeks ago and if you divide that into the sum presented today, Mr Frisby had a right to feel aggrieved,” the judge said. “It was insulting”.

The case was put back to February, 2015 so that Keogh could prove he had met the judges requirements.

Counsel told the court that Mr Keogh was bright, had a quiet personality and was far removed from the person involved in the assault.

In December 2011, a French rugby club offered Mr Keogh a six month contract worth €5,000 a month and he went on a three day trial. Unfortunately this fell through and he also lost his employment when he returned to Dublin, counsel said.

In January 2012, he suffered a back injury and found himself an in increasingly dark place. He started pondering life and doubted whether he had any future prospects. As a consequence he turned to drink and this continued for a number of months culminating in the assault.

Mr Kennedy said the assault came as a wake up call and as a mark of the man, he didn't give up. He underwent back surgery and in August 2012 Italian club Lazio decided to take a punt on him. In June 2013 he moved to Nottingham, a first division UK club, where he became much more settled and content.

He said his client's financial position was somewhat precarious as he had €12k in outstanding loans for a car and college fees and would love to have a much greater sum of money than the €3,000 he had brought with him to court with him yesterday.

Mr Keogh earned £1,700 pounds a month until the end of April when his contract is renewed and had £1,500 a month living expenses, according to counsel.

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