Sunday 25 August 2019

Woman with strength and rage like 'the Incredible Hulk' who assaulted patient outside hospital loses appeal

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

A WOMAN described as having “strength and rage” like “the incredible hulk” has lost an appeal against the severity of her sentence for attacking a patient outside hospital.

Alice Byrne (44), of Horizon Buildings, Royal Canal Park, in Dublin 15, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Sarah Comer at James Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown on August 13 2017.

She also pleaded guilty to trespass and criminal damage at Clonshaugh Road, Coolock on October 1, 2015, when she was said to have “directed” the smashing of windows and contents of a domestic dwelling with baseball bats.

Byrne was sentenced to four years imprisonment with the final year suspended by Judge Pauline Codd on December 17, 2018 for the assault. The sentence was made consecutive to nine months imprisonment for the trespass and criminal damage.

She lost an appeal against the severity of her sentence today with the Court of Appeal unable to identify any error in principle.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said Ms Comer was having a cigarette outside the hospital with an acquaintance when Byrne launched a “ferocious and unprovoked” assault.

The injured party was kicked and punched in the stomach and Byrne kept kicking her while she lay in the foetal position, the judge said.

Ms Comer told gardaí that Byrne was “like the incredible hulk in strength and rage” and the attack was worse than being “kicked by racehorses”.

A victim impact statement said that Ms Comer needed a number of stitches and now has nerve damage to the side of her face. She said her life has changed since, she suffers both panic attacks and is depressed.

Her breast implants were affected by kicks she got to the chest during the assault. She has no feeling in her nose and upper lip and has had to have two operations. She said she has a permanently disfigured face.

Ms Justice Donnelly said Byrne had 21 previous convictions and was on bail at the time of the assault.

She said the sentencing judge was right to select five years as the headline sentence, given the seriousness of the victim’s injuries as well as the ferocious and lengthy nature of the assault.

It was true that Byrne had a difficult background, and had been the recipient herself of violence previously, the judge said.

However, Ms Justice Donnelly, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court could find no error in principle and the appeal was therefore dismissed.

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