A teenager who took part in what a judge termed a “savage attack” that left a 17-year-old girl blind in one eye has been sentenced to 4½ years in prison.
Darragh Lyons (19) of Weir View, Glenaulin, Chapelizod, Dublin 20, pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm and violent disorder on Ballyfermot Road on December 30th 2021.
Alanna Quinn Idris, now aged 18, was hit in the face with the saddle of an electric scooter by another member of the gang, fracturing her eye socket and leaving her permanently blind in her right eye.
In a victim impact statement delivered at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Wednesday, Ms Quinn Idris said her life as she knew it “came to an abrupt end” on the night of the attack.
“I will never be the woman I was supposed to be – she died that night. Sometimes I wish I never woke up from when I was hit with that object,” Ms Quinn Idris told the court.
She said her chance of living a normal life had been destroyed before she turned 18.
In a judgment delivered on Thursday, Judge Martin Nolan condemned what he said was a premeditated, savage attack that involved collaboration between the young men who perpetrated it.
Judge Nolan set a headline sentence of eight to nine years but reduced this on account of mitigating factors including Lyons’ early plea, his co-operation, his lack of previous convictions and his young age. The judge said if Lyons had been older, the prison term would have been substantially longer.
Lyons also admitted assaulting causing harm to Ms Quinn Idris’ friend Louis O’Sullivan during the same attack. The attack took place a short time after a brief verbal dispute at a bus stop between Mr O’Sullivan and one of the accused.
The court heard there had been “abusive and loutish behaviour” by Lyons’ co-accused towards both victims on the bus. Two other men are facing trial in relation to the attack and cannot be named, while a fourth man could not be identified.
The court heard that Ms Quinn Idris was knocked unconscious after she was hit in the side of the face with the saddle of an electric scooter wielded by another of the accused.
Lyons did not wield any weapon in the attack, but that he punched Ms Quinn Idris on the side of her face and was also involved in punching and kicking Mr O’Sullivan.
[ Father hails Alanna Idris Quinn’s Leaving Cert results months after she lost sight in eye in high-profile Dublin attack ]
Ms Quinn Idris has since had numerous reconstructive surgeries to her right eye socket and a bone graft taken from her hip. She has lost vision permanently in one eye and is likely to need a prosthetic replacement, according to a medical report submitted to court.
Ms Quinn Idris said she was still discovering all the ways “this awful attack” has hurt her and set her life in a different course.
“I feel embarrassed, mortified and heartbroken. I cannot look in the mirror without entirely disassociating and at times I’m overcome with flashbacks,” she said, adding that she did not look or feel like the same person.
“People used to tell me I should model - I didn’t like it, it made me feel uncomfortable. I never felt I was beautiful, but I wish I’d listened to them. I’ve never been the most confident girl, but I had a little, until my attackers took that away,” she said.
Ms Quinn Idris thanked the local community for their thoughts and prayers and the local gardaí for their hard work, expressing the hope that this work will result in her attackers facing appropriate consequences for their actions.
She said that she missed so much of the final months of her Leaving Cert year and also missed occasions including her 18th birthday, her graduation and the birth of her brother.
Garda Ciaran Murray told Edward Doocey BL, prosecuting, that it was an “organised, retaliatory attack” by a gang of four youths who set upon a male and female that they had tracked from a distance.
A number of the gang were armed with a hurl, the saddle of an e-scooter and a knife, while both victims were unarmed, the court heard.
Gda Murray said that Ms Quinn Idris had been in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre on the day in question and got a bus to Ballyfermot with her friend Louis O’Sullivan.
Some of the accused were also on the bus, and there was a brief verbal dispute of some sort between Mr O’Sullivan and one of the accused after all parties alighted from the bus at about 9.30pm.
They parted ways without incident and Ms Quinn Idris, Mr O’Sullivan and a third friend walked to this friend’s house and waited outside while she went in to change out of her school uniform.
Two of the accused had phoned Lyons and the fourth accused who joined them as they waited on the far side of the road from Ms Quinn Idris and Mr O’Sullivan. There were some verbal exchanges before the gang, with Lyons leading the fray, crossed the road and punched Ms Quinn Idris once on the side of her face, causing her to fall back into a wall.
Another accused then took the saddle from his electric scooter and started attacking Mr O’Sullivan. Ms Quinn Idris regained her footing and tried to pull two suspects off Mr O’Sullivan, whereupon one of the accused swung the saddle in a “baseball swing style” to the side of her face and she immediately fell down and lost consciousness, said Gda Murray.
Lyons then shouted, “stab him, lads” and jumped over Ms Quinn Idris as all three continued attacking, punching and kicking Mr O’Sullivan, also striking him seven times with the saddle and eight times with the hurl. A knife was later found at the scene but was not attributed to Lyons.
The attack lasted about a minute and stopped only when passing motorists intervened and all four attackers fled the scene, the court heard.
Ms Quinn Idris was taken by ambulance to St James’s Hospital with a broken eye socket and then transferred to the Eye and Ear Hospital where she underwent emergency surgery. A medical report handed in to court stated that her eye was fully depressed and she has lost her vision permanently and is likely to need a prosthetic eye, the court heard.
Lyons has no previous convictions. The court heard it was his 18th birthday on the day of the attack and that he had been in a friend’s house when one of the suspects phoned him.
Dean Kelly SC, defending Lyons, said his client was not involved in the “abusive and loutish behaviour” of the other suspects towards both victims on the bus. Mr Kelly said Lyons had gone to what he understood to be an understood to be an incident of more violence and was “the first person into the fray”.
Mr Kelly said although Lyons did not inflict the very serious injuries on Ms Quinn Idris, he was “both morally and criminally responsible for what happened to her, agreeing with Gda Murray that it was a “joint enterprise”.
Mr Kelly said Ms Quinn Idris were “utterly blameless” and that Lyons had expressed his shame and regret and his wish that he could turn back the clock.
The court heard that the incident caused a furore in the local area and that Lyons left school and moved house. He has since re-enrolled back into education and a letter from his former homeschool liaison officer described Lyons as an asset to the classroom and someone who was kind and compassionate to others.
Lyons’ father also wrote to the court expressing “shock and disbelief” at what his son did and expressing the family’s deepest apology and regret to Ms Quinn Idris.
Mr Lyons said the offence was “out of character” and that he would ensure that his son “would never see the inside of these courts again”. A letter from a counsellor said Lyons has engaged in regular counselling with “significant success and honesty”.
[ Alanna Quinn Idris tells court the life she knew came to ‘abrupt end’ on night of attack ]
Mr Kelly said Lyons’ father had spent a considerable amount of time in prison when the accused was young and had split up with his wife when Lyons was aged 10. A probation report placed Lyons as at moderate risk of reoffending within the next 12 months.
Lyons himself wrote a letter of apology which was handed into court.