A Laois man punched another man in the round hall of the Criminal Courts of Justice after the collapse of a sexual assault trial.
At a sentence hearing on Wednesday, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the defendant attacked the son of a man who had been accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend.
The court heard the punch victim had allegedly made a gun gesture to the woman as she was leaving the courthouse.
The Laois man, who cannot be named to protect his girlfriend’s identity as a sexual assault complainant, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm in the Courts of Criminal Justice, Parkgate Street, Dublin, on May 13th, 2021.
The court heard the assault took place when tensions were running high after charges of alleged sexual assault on the girlfriend of this accused were dropped. The sexual assault accused is still before the courts on other charges of sexual assault of other complainants and cannot be identified.
Garda Ciaran Kallaghy told Marc Thompson BL, prosecuting, that after the trial collapsed, the sexual assault complainant was upset. She and her boyfriend were walking towards the courthouse exit and crossed paths with the wife and sons of the sex assault accused.
David Perry BL, defending, said the woman saw the son of the sex assault accused looking at her and making a gun gesture with his hand. CCTV footage played in court showed the punch victim making a hand gesture and showed the woman running towards him while her boyfriend tried to hold her back.
The footage shows the woman and her boyfriend walking off when the boyfriend suddenly turns and punches the assault victim. The victim hit the marble floor and suffered injuries to his head.
In his victim impact report, he said the psychological damage was harder to deal with that the physical injuries. He said he continues to suffer from a loss of smell and taste due to damage to his brain and he had to take anti-seizure medication for six months after the assault.
He said before the attack he was confident but now he just feels “emotionally tired” all the time.
Mr Perry told the court that seven people made allegations of sexual assault against the father of the punch victim and that his client’s girlfriend was one of these complainants. He said the punch victim seemed to be jeering at this woman when the two groups intersected in the round hall and when she became upset, the punch victim allegedly told her, “Aren’t you cute when you’re angry?”
He said his client told gardaí that he felt he was in a threatening situation with the family of the sex assault accused close walking behind him.
Judge Pauline Codd said that garda accepted that the gesture made towards the woman could be interpreted as threatening but that did not excuse the violence meted out.
She said that she accepted the defendant believed he and his partner were under some level of threat. She took into consideration his position as the sole breadwinner for his partner and their young children, his genuine apology in a letter to the court and his history of hard work.
She noted his previous convictions, which include drug dealing and public order offences, did not involve violent offences. She suspended a prison term of 3½ years for four years on condition he keep the peace and be of good behaviour.