Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Young people come here and think they can turn the clock back' - Judge's words to man whose attack had 'devastating' consequences on rising GAA star

Voodoo venue in Letterkenny, Donegal (Photo: Google Maps)
Voodoo venue in Letterkenny, Donegal (Photo: Google Maps)

Greg Harkin

A 22-year-old man whose single punch attack on a rising GAA star had ‘devastating’ consequences and left him with two broken jaw bones has been given community service.

Mark Laverty, (23), from Greenfields, Convoy, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Donegal minor player Matthew Carlin outside a Letterkenny nightclub on September 7, 2014.

Gda Paul McKenna told Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court that he and Sgt Paul McHugh had broken up a row outside the Voodoo club involving Laverty and a number of other people.

Those involved were warned to leave the area and gardaí continued to patrol the town.

However when they returned to the area ten minutes later they found Mr Carlin on the ground.

CCTV footage and eye-witnesses helped identify his assailant as Laverty.

Gda McKenna said Mr Carlin was taken to hospital before being transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry where he was treated for two breaks in his jawbone. Metal plates had to be inserted, he said.

“Mr Carlin was a highly regarded footballer on the panel which was in the All Ireland Final that year,” said Gda McKenna.

“Mr Carlin suffered depression after the incident. It was the start of his Leaving Cert year but unfortunately he had a breakdown and he had to be withdrawn from the school for the rest of the year.”

Mr Carlin’s father Sean, a former Irish Decathlon champion, told Judge John O’Hagan that his son had been given enormous help by a Jigsaw youth help group in Letterkenny in the weeks and months after the incident.

He said they had decided to send Sean to a private school in Galway the following year to finish his Leaving Cert and he was now in college in London studying to be a dietician. The Red Hughs GAA club player was no longer involved in gaelic games, he said.

“I have listened to the case and the detail of that one blow but the affect that one blow had for us that year was huge,” said Mr Carlin.

“He is over it now and he’s in the right place now. But the impact on him mentally was huge and on us financially was a lot.”

Laverty took to the witness stand and told the judge: “I’m sorry for what I have done. I seen a fight going on and saw my friend in the middle of it. I shouldn’t have done what I done.”

His mother Jackie described him as “not a bad lad” and said her son was not the person to go out and look for fights.

Judge John O’Hagan said that 90pc of the cases he deals with in the courts are Section 3 assaults causing harm.

“Young people go out to a disco, or to a pub or apartment and they take drink. They come out, get into fights, they go to the chipper and get into more fights. It is endemic - it happens all the time,” said the judge.

“They come here and they think they can walk away with it; that they can turn the clock back…. it really is beyond belief then they come in to me and say ‘I’m a good boy now and it won’t happen again’. What do they want me to do, give them sweets?”

The judge said jaw injuries are slow healing and very disruptive.

“You might be sucking liquids for months afterwards. A lot of depression is involved there as well,” said the judge.

He said Laverty had no previous convictions and was deemed by the probation service to be at a low to nil risk of re-offending.

He sentenced Laverty to 200 hours community service in lieu of an 18 month prison sentence, telling Laverty the conviction would “stick with you like glue for the rest of your days” and restrict his ability to travel abroad.

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