Serving soldier who beat woman unconscious and boasted about it on social media gets suspended sentence

‘I felt completely helpless, feeling like I was being used as a punching bag, I didn’t feel human’, woman attacked on street by Cathal Crotty (22) told court

Irish Defence Forces soldier, Cathal Crotty (22) received a three year suspended sentence for assaulting Natasha O’Brien (24) on O’Connell Street, Limerick.

A serving Irish soldier who beat a woman unconscious in a random street attack, and boasted about it afterwards on social media, has been given a suspended sentence.

Cathal Crotty (22), of Parkroe Heights, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare, had initially tried to blame his victim Natasha O’Brien (24), by wrongly telling gardaí who arrested him that she had instigated the attack at O’Connell Street, Limerick on May 29th, 2022.

However, after gardaí showed Crotty CCTV footage of him setting upon Ms O’Brien without provocation, he admitted his guilt, Limerick Circuit Criminal Court heard.

Hours after the attack Crotty boasted to friends on Snapchat: “Two to put her down, two to put her out,” in reference to striking Ms O’Brien four times.


Crotty had been drinking throughout the evening in question..

It appeared he lashed out at Ms O’Brien, of North Circular Road, Limerick, after she and a friend had “politely” asked him to stop shouting “faggot” at other people on the street, the court heard.

Ms O’Brien, who was not known to Crotty, was walking home with a woman friend after working a shift at a pub, when Crotty grabbed her by her hair and punched her to the ground.

He continued holding her hair with one hand and punching her face with his other first as she lost consciousness, the court heard.

Ms O’Brien, who sustained a broken nose and bruising, and suffered nightmares and panic attacks afterwards said she thought Crotty was going to kill her.

Crotty fled when a male passerby intervened, however his friends remained at the scene.

Natasha O'Brien (24) outside Limerick Circuit Criminal Court. Photograph: Brendan Gleeson

In court, Ms O’Brien walked past Crotty to the witness box to read a victim impact statement.

“When Cathal Crotty attacked me I went into a state of shock, I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me, I felt completely helpless, feeling like I was being used as a punching bag, I didn’t feel human,” Ms O’Brien told the court.

“As I lay in the foetal position, and losing consciousness, he continued his relentless beating. My last conscious thought was, ‘he’s not stopping, I’m going to die’.

“The physical injuries I sustained were devastating; a severe concussion, a broken nose, severe swelling, and bruising on both arms, shoulders, head, right upper thigh, left eye, cheek and jaw.

“I spent the following weeks and months attending hospital and doctor appointments, and due to persistent concussion symptoms I was deemed ‘high–risk’ for a brain bleed, and I received a battery of tests including a head CAT scan.

“A sense of constant dread and isolation was unlike anything I have ever experienced and I spiralled into self-destructive behaviours and lost all interest and motivation for life.

“Basic tasks at work became incredibly difficult and I ultimately lost my job due to my rapidly declining performance. I became numb and detached from reality, living in perpetual fear of seeing him again,” she added.

“He (Crotty) may not remember, but my memory of the vicious sinister look in his eyes as he approached me will haunt me forever.”

The court heard Crotty remains a Private soldier in the Defence Forces, based at Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick city.

His superior Commandant Paul Togher gave evidence that Crotty was an “exemplary”, “courteous”, “professional” and “disciplined” soldier.

When asked by prosecution counsel, Lily Buckley BL, for his reaction to the evidence of the attack, Commandant Togher replied he was “exceptionally disappointed and surprised” as it was, in his opinion, “very out of character” for the defendant, and that he was most disappointed as Crotty, as a solider, “is expected to keep people safe”.

When asked by Crotty’s barrister, Donal Cronin, if he had been asked by Crotty to come to court, Commandant Togher said, as a senior army officer, he was required to attend criminal cases involving Irish soldiers. He said this role required him to report back to superior officers on matters that may affect a soldier’s future in the forces.

Mr Cronin said Crotty, who was accompanied in court by his mother, was “ashamed and embarrassed and offers his sincerest apologies to the victim”.

Judge Tom O’Donnell, said Crotty’s actions on the night were “utterly appalling”.

The judge said he had “no doubt” if he imposed an immediate jail sentence on Crotty, his army “career is over”.

“He (Crotty) took pride in striking a defenceless woman in what was a cowardly, vicious, unprovoked and totally unnecessary assault,” the judge said.

Judge O’Donnell said Crotty “must be given credit” for pleading guilty to assaulting Ms O’Brien, causing her harm.

He said he had to “take into account” Crotty had no previous convictions; Crotty’s army career; that Crotty pleaded guilty early, which eliminated the necessity for a jury trial.

Judge O’Donnell imposed a three-year sentence which he suspended in its entirety. He also ordered Crotty to pay €3,000 compensation to Ms O’Brien without prejudice to any potential civil court proceedings.

Speaking afterwards Ms O’Brien criticised the sentence and said: “I lost my job because of his (Crotty’s) actions, because I was so impacted by what he did, but this judge doesn’t want to jail him because it will mean he will lose his job.”

“That’s not justice,” Ms O’Brien said.

The court had sent “a message” to Crotty and anyone else that they could attack women in public and not be jailed, she added.