A man who took part in “viciously” attacking his cousin, beating him with a fire extinguisher and leaving the victim with a serious brain injury, has been jailed for seven and a half years.
Michael Joyce (24) was watching a Conor McGregor fight and drinking during the night with his cousin when the assault occurred the following morning, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard. Joyce, with an address at Brega Hamlet Lane, Balbriggan, Co Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing serious harm to Christopher McDonagh at an address on Upper Rathmines Road, Dublin on January 24, 2021. He has 38 previous convictions, including for assault.
Grainne O’Neill BL, prosecuting, told the court the two men are settled Travellers who didn’t know each other very well due to an old family feud dating to before they were born. The court was shown video footage taken by neighbours showing Joyce and another man, who is still before the courts, punching and kicking Mr McDonagh (35) repeatedly as he lay still on the ground. A second clip showed Joyce beating him with a fire extinguisher. The offence of assault causing serious harm carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Sentencing Joyce, Judge Martin Nolan said that Joyce had taken drugs on the night in question and became “furious” with his cousin for some reason or for some supposed slight.
“The injured party was attacked viciously by this defendant and another man,” the judge said. “He was knocked to the ground, punched, kicked and stomped on and then hit with a fire extinguisher.”
Judge Nolan said Mr McDonagh was left with dental and facial injuries as well as a serious brain injury. He has made a good recovery but still has cognitive issues and has suffered ongoing trauma as a result of the attack, the court heard.
“It was a prolonged and intentional attack,” the judge said, noting it was very serious to hit someone with a fire extinguisher. He handed down a sentence of seven and a half years and backdated it to when Joyce went into custody on this offence.
Garda Rachel Corcoran told the court that Joyce invited Mr McDonagh to join him at the address in question to watch a Conor McGregor fight along with the other accused man.
The injured party told gardaí that they had a few beers and things seemed to be going well, but at some point the atmosphere changed and he saw Joyce and the other man exchanging an “evil look”.
The court heard Mr McDonagh’s last memory was of standing beside the two men in the building hall and then being hit over the head with something. A number of people who lived in the same building told gardaí of hearing shouting and noises that morning. One neighbour took two video clips of the men beating and hitting Mr McDonagh outside the building. Gardaí and paramedics were called to the scene and Joyce and the other man were arrested.
The first garda to arrive reported finding Mr McDonagh in a semi-unconscious state, with his teeth knocked out and blood coming from his ear. A victim impact statement was handed into court but not read aloud.
After he was arrested, Joyce tried to self-harm while in custody, the court heard. When interviewed, he made no admissions but told gardaí he loved his cousin “to bits”.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending, said his client had an alcoholic and abusive father. He was eventually raised by his grandmother. He started using drugs at a young age. Joyce was on bail for another offence at the time of the attack, and has been in custody since, the court heard. A letter of apology was handed into court, with Mr McGinn saying his client was aware his actions on that night were “unforgiveable”.