Men were Time in jail 'opened eyes' of teen who fractured student's skull with kick outside Offaly Shopping Centrebrought from Portlaoise to Tullamore District Court
TIME in jail had opened the eyes of a young man who assaulted a teenager in Offaly three years ago, fracturing the victim's skull.
The defendant, who is from central Europe, was aged 16 when he kicked another 16-year-old male outside a shopping centre, causing a life threatening clot on the brain.
The victim, a Spanish student, was in the Midlands on a student exchange programme when the assault occurred on January 28, 2018.
Tullamore Circuit Court was told the assault was unprovoked and the victim had to undergo emergency surgery in Beaumont hospital and subsequently returned to his home country where he was making a successful recovery.
The court heard the accused, who is now aged 19 but cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, had experience in kickboxing.
At a sentencing hearing Judge Keenan Johnson viewed CCTV footage from an Offaly shopping centre where an altercation involving some young people occurred and the victim was then kicked to the head outside the building.
Judge Johnson imposed a three-year sentence and because of the accused's age, he was detained in Oberstown and was released in June 2019 following three positive probation reports from the detention centre.
Judge Johnson said he wished to impose a suspended sentence, with compensation payment conditions, but that was not permitted under the Children's Act, and instead the three-year sentence was deferred with regular reviews in court.
At Tullamore Circuit Court last month, defence counsel Des Dockery, SC (instructed by Patrick Martin solicitor), outlined that the accused's release in June 2019 was conditional on him submitting himself to Probation Service supervision, engaging with Youth Reach, finding employment and pay €50 a week to the injured party's Spanish bank account.
He was living in a county other than Offaly and was in arrears with his compensation payments by November 2019.
At that stage he was ordered to pay €700 every three months until €8,000 in total was paid back.
That same month, following allegations the teenager had committed further offences, he was remanded in custody to Oberstown again for a short period and on his release he was ordered to abstain from alcohol and observe a curfew.
His case was remanded back to March 2020 and everything was in order but on June 10 last year the State re-entered the matter again for breach of the curfew and he was remanded to Cloverhill prison and was released on June 26 on condition he sign on daily at a Garda Station.
A warrant had to be issued for him in November last year when he did not turn up for a court appearance and it was discovered that he had gone to his home country to visit his grandmother.
Then on February 12 last the warrant was executed and the accused was placed in custody in Cloverhill again, prior to his appearance before Judge Johnson.
Mr Dockery told the court the young man's granny had not been well and he was the only family member in a position to spend time with her.
Counsel said the defendant had written a letter for the court in which he explained how he had spoken to his grandmother a lot about “the trouble” he had caused and how he had learned that alcohol was the cause of it.
“I have issues with alcohol myself and I believe that is the reason for my character to have changed so much to commit this crime,” the letter said.
He was very remorseful for what he had done.
“I wish I'd realised all of this sooner and I could have made the changes necessary to stop this from happening. I know that's what jails are for and my eyes have definitely been opened.”
The court was told he had €500 in court to put towards the compensation and also had a job lined up in a bakery and he would be making efforts to pay back the remainder.
Mr Dockery said that although the accused was a young man with intelligence and ability, he had addiction issues and his recent detention in Cloverhill had a “sobering effect” on him.
Kevin White, BL, prosecuting, said the accused had been before the District Court last year in relation to offences, including criminal damage and public order. He understood €2,550 has been paid in compensation.
Judge Johnson said he was conscious that the victim was entitled to compensation and he released the accused on bail on condition proof was provided that he was getting employment in the bakery.
On March 26, when the matter was last before the court, Judge Johnson was told he would be starting work the following Monday.
He also had another €200 compensation and was making “significant efforts” with the arrears.
Judge Johnson said it had all been quite traumatic for the Spanish victim.
“I'm sure he'd be wondering what type of justice system have we that the judge can direct that payments be made and then they're not,” he remarked. “That was my major concern in relation to this.”
He made another adjournment to June 29 next, assuming the accused began working and was in a position to earn money and pay the compensation.
“I want all arrears outstanding brought up to date by then.”
The curfew, which required the accused to remain indoors until 8am each day, was relaxed to allow him go to work.
The youth originally pleaded guilty to a charge of assault, causing serious harm, and Judge Johnson said at the sentencing hearing that an aggravating factor was that the accused followed the victim out of the shopping centre before kicking him.
His use of his kickboxing skills in the assault was also a factor in determining the three-year sentence.
He was absolutely satisfied the offence had to carry a custodial element “because of its gravity”, while at the same time incentivising the accused to rehabilitate and offer “some form of recompense” to the victim.
While putting a young person in custody was a last resort, Judge Johnson said it would be in the best interests of the accused.
Medical reports and a victim impact statement indicated the victim suffered a temporal acute extradural haematoma nine centimetres long.
He was brought to Tullamore Hospital first and released but after getting severe headaches and vomiting was readmitted, and then transferred to Beaumont after a scan.
The victim himself reported that he suffered from apathy and a lack of motivation and organisation and was slower in accomplishing tasks.
A psychologist was helping him but he had to give up his school, job and life in Ireland and when he returned home he could not play sports or engage in mental activity for the first few months.
After six months he could return to sport and after a year he was able to return to his “first love”, roller hockey.
He felt he always needed to be on his guard and his academic results had suffered.
A psychologist's report was furnished to the court and it said he had recovered to previous levels of verbal comprehension and expression, learning, memory and abstract reasoning.