Woman jailed for assaulting a family friend who was trying to break up a fight

Judge accepted transgender woman Shauna Kavanagh (33) will ‘have difficulty serving time in prison’

A woman who assaulted a family friend that was trying to break up a fight outside a bar has been jailed for a year.

Shauna Kavanagh (33), previously known as Sean Kavanagh, is transgender . She has transitioned to a woman since the assaults took place and is now known as Shauna Kavanagh. A gender recognition certificate was handed up in court.

Kavanagh of Priory Hall Whitehall Road, Kimmage Manor, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of assault causing harm and two counts of assault on James Street, Dublin on December 9, 2017.

Her defence barrister, barrister Cathleen Noctor SC told Judge Elma Sheahan at a previous sentence hearing last month, that there are only two transgender women in the Irish prison system. She said they are both being held in women’s jails and kept separate from the rest of the prison population.

The court heard Kavanagh assaulted Thomas Coogan, a family friend, by punching him to the face when Mr Coogan tried to break up a row outside the Malt House Bar on James Street. Mr Coogan suffered a fractured skull and bleeding to the brain and spent several days in intensive care, the court heard.

He made a full recovery but has since died from cancer, Garda David Redmond told the court.

The court heard Kavanagh was kicked out of the pub after becoming drunk and knocking over several glasses during a karaoke session. Kavanagh punched a bar man, Ian Byrne, and threw a bottle at an event manager, Denis Heatly, while being kicked out of the bar.

When Kavanagh tried to run back into the bar, Mr Coogan intervened and Kavanagh punched him, causing him to fall and hit his head off the road.

Before he died, Mr Coogan wrote a letter to the court saying he bore no ill-will or malice towards Kavanagh. Mr Coogan’s partner, who is Kavanagh’s aunt and who was present at the time, also told gardaí­ she did not believe Kavanagh meant to assault her partner, the court heard.

There were no victim impact statements before the court.

Kavanagh has two minor previous convictions for public order and failing to produce a specimen, Eilis Brennan SC, prosecuting, told the court. Further theft charges are currently before the District Court.

Judge Sheahan said on Monday that a custodial sentence was warranted in the case because of the “determination to continue with violence” demonstrated by Kavanagh when she returned to the bar “to engage in a third assault”.

The judge said Kavanagh “demonstrated a wilful disregard to all present” and that is why Mr Coogan was so badly injured. She also noticed that Kavanagh had used two bottles in the earlier assaults. She accepted, however, that Kavanagh, had not intended to cause the injuries sustained by Mr Coogan.

Judge Sheahan acknowledged the letter from Mr Coogan and also a submission made on Monday by Ms Noctor that Mr Byrne contacted her “side of the house” and advised that he viewed Kavanagh’s behaviour towards him in the bar as akin to “a scuffle”.

Judge Sheahan sentenced Kavanagh to two years in prison but suspended the final 12 months having accepted Kavanagh’s remorse and shame and lack of previous convictions for violence offences.

She said Kavanagh should serve her sentence in the women’s prison and be administered any of the medication as previously prescribed to her by the doctors.

The judge also acknowledged that Kavanagh was psychologically vulnerable at the time, having suppressed her true identity as a transgender woman and also accepted that she will “have difficulty serving time in prison”.

At a previous hearing, Ms Noctor told the court that Kavanagh was “appalled, disgusted, ashamed” of the incident and had no memory of the events of that night.

Ms Noctor said Kavanagh “is a person who until recently lived her life repressing her true identity”.

The court heard Kavanagh had been living in London as a woman prior to the incident, but upon returning to Dublin was “suppressing her gender”.

A psychological report handed up to court said Kavanagh’s “anger (that night) is likely to have emanated from the frustration about how her life was progressing...including suppressed gender”, the court heard.

Ms Noctor cited international research which has found transgender women in particular are a vulnerable group in prison.

“This would make it particularly difficult for her to serve a prison sentence,” Ms Noctor said.