A man who assaulted a number of individuals in an unprovoked attack has been given a suspended sentence and must pay one of the victims €18,000 in compensation.
Mark O’Brien, with an address at 151 Robertshill, Circular Road, Kilkenny, was charged with four counts of assault under Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
The offences occurred on Parliament Street in Kilkenny City on July 2 of 2016.
He was also charged with Section 4 and 6 under the Public Order Act for the offences on the same date.
The incident saw Mr O’Brien assault four individuals, three of which had been out socialising, the fourth victim is the owner of a local pub in the City.
Two of the men caught up in the incident had walked ahead out of the public house and the third victim came after them and called at them to wait. The men then saw the third victim being punched by Mr O’Brien.
A brother of the man who received the first punch then tried to separate them and Mr O’Brien “made a beeline” for this man and punched him into the left side of the injured party’s mouth and he fell awkwardly.
He “pirouetted on his ankle” and it fractured. Gardaí were called to the altercation and found one of the victims with a group of people around him and he was in pain.
The court heard the victim who sustained the ankle injury had said that Mr O’Brien had hit him more than once and the rest was all a blur. He added that he told the defendant that “no one else is looking for a fight, only you”.
Mr O’Brien alleged that something was said to his wife but he subsequently withdrew this allegation. The court heard from Niall Boland, prosecuting BL, that the attack was “completely unprovoked” and had disrupted the victim’s “home and work life”.
In interviews, Mr O’Brien told Gardaí that he “struck a guy as something was said to my wife” and that he was “getting punched and was punching back” but the initial assault victim has said he’d given Mr O’Brien and his wife a “wide berth”.
CCTV footage of the attack was obtained by Gardaí which showed that Mr O’Brien threw the first punch and in all of the footage available, the victims were not seen throwing a punch at Mr O’Brien.
Defence counsel for Mr O’Brien said that there was “no explanation for what he did” and that the defendant wanted to apologise to the victims and had €3,000 in compensation.
The injured parties were not willing to accept the €3,000 compensation, nor would they accept the apology, the court heard.
Mr O’Brien has been out on leave as a result of the stress and depression he has suffered in the wake of the attack and the “nasty injury” one of the victims sustained.
A victim impact statement read out in court on behalf of the victim who fractured his ankle, revealed the devastating impact the incident had on his life.
At the time of the attack, his wife was 33 weeks pregnant with their first child and his wife had to take on all the extra responsibilities at home due to his ankle injury. He was unable to drive her to the hospital when she went into labour, “as any husband would”.
For ten weeks after the birth of his first child, he was unable to pick her up or carry her and his daughter had to be handed to him when he was sitting down.
Transport had to be provided by his family too as his wife was also unable to drive after giving birth.
He struggled to sleep after the attack and saw a return of asthmatic symptoms as well. He had screws inserted in his ankle for three months after the incident and was in serious pain and discomfort.
The injured party now suffers from anxiety in social situations and becomes overwhelmed with anxiety in crowded areas like trains.
He isolated himself in the aftermath and the attack led to medical costs of €2,255 which was covered by his health insurance.
He was also unable to work for four full weeks after the attack.
The victim would have avoided confrontation at all costs in his life and described the incident as an “unprovoked, unwarranted, vicious assault” which there was no justification for.
Defence counsel for Mr O’Brien described the statement as “extremely moving”.
He added that his client had undergone an anger management and alcohol awareness course in the aftermath of the attack.
The fact that Mr O’Brien had no explanation for what he did was a concern for the Probation Services, his legal representative said.
The court heard Mr O’Brien was a man in his early 40s and was in with his wife at the hearing and he worked locally.
Both sides have suffered in this case and Mr O’Brien has been out on sick leave brought about by this prosecution, the court heard. Mr O’Brien has four previous convictions but they are of a historic nature.
The apology to the victims came “from the heart”, his legal representative said and he was “terrified at the prospect of a custodial sentence”. Judge Patrick Meghen said the headline sentence for the attack was two years and six months.
He added that in the normal course of events he would jail Mr O’Brien.
“I’m here five weeks doing crime and there are too many of these unprovoked attacks going on,” he said.
He highlighted that Mr O’Brien had given no explanation for the attack which had a “profound effect” on the victim who fractured his ankle.
He took into account Mr O’Brien’s early plea and that the Probation Services found him at moderate risk of re-offending.
Judge Meghen suspended the sentence for six years.
He convicted him on one count of assault causing harm with all of the other offences taken into consideration.
He also ordered that the defendant pay €3,000 to the victim with the fractured ankle - should the injured party decide to accept it - and a further €3,000 for the next five years - bringing the total compensation to €18,000.