A judge has warned “two young bucks” that they came “within an ace” of being sent to jail for an unprovoked and vicious attack on a man in Co. Kildare three years ago.
Judge Patrick McCartan at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today imposed an 18 month suspended sentence on Robert Rice (20) and Ciaran Ahern (21) and told them they had been “reckless in the extreme” in contesting the case despite evidence of Karl O’Grady’s facial injuries.
The judge said he couldn’t see how the jury could have reached another decision in convicting the two men of assault causing harm after a retrial last month.
Rice, a Mercury Engineering apprentice of Riverforest Estate, Leixlip and Ahern, an SMT Fund Services employee of Rye River Mall, Dun Carraig also in Leixlip, were convicted by majority verdict after a five day retrial in January.
They had both pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assaulting Mr O’Grady at Riverforest Estate in the early hours of December 11, 2010. Counsel for both men told the judge their clients had accepted the jury’s decision. Neither man has any previous convictions.
Garda David Carey told Cormac Quinn BL, prosecuting, that Mr O’Grady and a Chinese friend had been walking in the River Forest area when they encountered Rice, Ahern and two other youths.
A fight broke out when someone passed the comment “swamp rat” and Mr O’Grady was punched, kicked and stamped on the head. Gda Carey said the victim received about ten “volley style” kicks to the head while he was being attacked on the ground and suffered a broken jaw and broken teeth.
Rice and Ahern turned up voluntarily at Leixlip Garda Station to admit involvement in the attack after Mr O’Grady’s father had gone on the Joe Duffy show to talk about the victim’s injuries.
Gda Carey revealed that the then teenagers admitted they had caused the injuries but that they had acted in self defence of themselves and each other.
He agreed with Eoin Lawlor BL, defending Ahern, that his client had named two others involved, which assisted gardai since they hadn’t found anyone fitting the youths’ descriptions in the area after the incident.
Mr O’Grady read out his Victim Impact Statement in court and in it described how the medical report of his injuries had omitted detailing the pain and stress he endured for months.
He outlined how he was unable to eat solid food while his jaw was being rewired and that he was only paid for two weeks out of the seven he missed at work.
Mr O’Grady revealed that he still experiences sporadic pain spasms and will have numbness in the area for the rest of his life. He said the attack not only affected him, but also his family.
“I hope my assailants realise that the consequences could have been more serious for me, for them and their families,” he said.
He told Judge McCartan he would accept the €10,000 Rice and Ahern each had in compensation, but stated that the case had always been about justice.
The judge described the compensation offer as a “significant gesture” that put some meaning into the men’s remorse.
John Berry BL, defending Rice, submitted that his client is a hardworking man who had taken out a credit union loan from personal savings to raise compensation for the victim. Counsel said his client would be paying back the loan through the modest earnings from his apprenticeship.
Mr Lawlor submitted to Judge McCartan that his client, who has an international investments and capital marketing diploma from Dublin Business School, had “lost his reputation as an upstanding member of society”.
Both counsel asked the judge to take into account their clients’ young age at the time and their lack of convictions before or since the attack.
Judge McCartan referred to Rice and Ahern’s “tissue of lies” in the witness box during trial and Mr O’Grady “being called a liar by two young bucks.”
He said the men had shown some degree of maturity by accepting responsibility, but added that “what’s terribly upsetting is that they didn’t have the capacity to do that three years ago.”
The judge told them had they come to court empty handed and rejected the jury’s conviction, he would have sent them to prison.
He acknowledged that they were hardworking young men who would have little or no prospects if jailed.
Judge McCartan imposed an 18 months sentence suspended for two years. He told the men to learn from their mistake and wished them good luck.