Attacker walks free as man he glassed asks for leniency

Judge warns: 'Closest I've ever come to jailing someone on first offence'

A 40-year-old man who smashed a glass into the side of a former work colleague's face in an entirely unprovoked attack in a Listowel premises last year escaped jail when a court was told that the victim and his family did not want to see him jailed.

But the presiding judge warned that it was the 'closest' he had ever come to jailing someone on a first offence. He said he would have imposed a sentence had the victim and his family not asked the Court to allow the assailant walk free.

Declan Sheehy, Clounmacon, Listowel, was before Judge David Waters for sentencing at Listowel District Court on Thursday for assaulting Billy McElligott at the Three Mermaids in Listowel on July 1 of last year - contrary to section three of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

Solicitor Pat Enright explained that Mr Sheehy was profoundly sorry for an attack for which the defendant could provide no explanation, notifying the Judge that he was bringing €1,500 into the Court by way of a compensatory payment to Mr McElligott.

"There is no fault or blame attaching to anyone other than to Mr Sheehy himself...Mr McElligott was entirely blameless."

He said his client was not a heavy drinker ordinarily but 'there was a World Cup match on...he said that he cannot explain his actions but accepts that he struck Mr McElligott."

The pair knew each other well, having previously worked in retail in Listowel together at a time when Mr McElligott was Mr Sheehy's supervisor. Mr Enright said his client even acknowledged Mr McElligott's great help to him in agreeing to provide him with references when he moved onto other work. "In addition Mr Sheehy would know Mr McElligott's wife and her family very well...there was a great connection there."

Judge Waters, who had studied the victim impact statement handed him at the outset of the case, remarked: "There was no reasonable explanation proferred for the glass in the face."

"I can't give one Judge, he has very little memory of the incident," Mr Enright replied. "He is deeply, deeply sorry for what he did, for the hurt he visited on Mr McElligott and his family, people he holds in very high regard."

Mr Enright said his client had also been affected by his attack: "This has had an affect on him. He stays in and doesn't go out drinking and is extremely cautious in relation to his own personal well-being because he was shocked at what he did on the night."

Judge Waters said the aggravating factors in the case were: the completely unprovoked nature of the attack; the severity of the assault and the nature of the injuries.

That Mr Sheehy had no previous convictions was a 'major mitigating factor' he added. However, describing the case as at the upper limit of the District Court's ambit, he said this was one of the 'rare examples' of a first offence in which he would consider a custodial sentence.

Sgt Kieran O'Connell said at this point: "Before you make your order, the injured party has no desire for the accused to be put into custody."

Judge Waters said that was very much to Mr McElligott's credit, ultimately sentencing Mr Sheehy to five months imprisonment, suspended for a year on his own bond of €200 after great deliberation.

"If it was not for Mr McElligott and his family's intervention it would be a custodial sentence," Judge Waters remarked.