Man who left soldier with life-changing injuries is jailed after appeal
Cian Cox was initially given suspended sentence for one-punch attack outside Galway nightclub
The Court of Appeal ruled that the sentencing judge had erred in fully suspending a four-year sentence imposed at Galway Circuit Criminal Court
A Mayo man who left a soldier with life-changing injuries following a one-punch attack outside a Galway nightclub is facing 18 months in prison after a four-year suspended sentence was successfully appealed by the DPP on the grounds of undue leniency.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the sentencing judge had erred in fully suspending a four-year sentence imposed at Galway Circuit Criminal Court on Cian Cox (26) , originally from Breaffy, Co Mayo with an address at Close Ard, Bohermore, Galway, last November after he pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to David McCormack, a member of the Defence Forces.
The offence took place outside the Electric Garden nightclub on Abbeygate Street, Galway on May 5th, 2017.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said it would retain the four-year sentence but only suspend the final two and a half years of the term.
Mr McCormack, who was 27 at the time of the attack and had only returned a few weeks earlier from a six-month tour of UN duty in Syria, spent 12 days in a coma as a result of the assault. He also had part of his skull removed to relieve pressure on his brain and was out of work for 11 months.
Mr McCormack has spent six and a half months in total in hospital and had required four operations as a result of his injuries.
Mr Justice Birmingham said Mr McCormack’s account of his injuries had made for “harrowing reading”.
Security officers at the nightclub told gardaí that an altercation had taken place earlier inside the venue between Mr McCormack and several other men, some of whom were ejected from the premises.
Patrick Reynolds SC, for the DPP, said Cox, who left the nightclub of his own accord, had effectively laid in wait for McCormack to leave the club, before coming up behind him on the street and throwing a punch to his victim’s head before fleeing the area.
Mr Reynolds said the sentencing judge, Judge Rory MacCabe, had noted that the victim had been permanently scarred both physically and psychologically from the attack which had caused life-threatening injuries.
Counsel acknowledged that Cox did not intend to cause such injuries as well as the existence of several mitigating factors including a guilty plea, an expression of remorse and the payment of €13,000 compensation to Mr McCormack.
However, Mr Reynolds pointed out that there was a level of pre-meditation to Cox’s offence.
He claimed the circumstances of the case contained no special reasons of a substantial nature with exceptional circumstances for the sentencing judge to depart from the appropriate practice of imposing some element of a custodial sentence for such an offence to reflect its gravity.
“The sentence should not have been fully suspended,” Mr Reynolds said.
However, Paul Flannery SC, for Cox, said the cumulative mitigating factors in his client’s favour, including “putting his hands up”, his lack of any previous convictions and good employment record, amounted to substantial reasons to allow the sentencing judge to fully suspend any sentence.
Mr Flannery said Cox had not come to the attention of gardaí since the incident and now worked as a team leader with Advant Medical in Galway city with responsibility for up to 30 staff.
Outlining the Court of Appeal’s decision, the President, Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding, with Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said it was a case of “great seriousness” and a fully suspended sentence was inappropriate.
He said the Court of Appeal would not have felt it inappropriate if the sentencing judge had suspended two of the four years, although he acknowledged that it might still be regarded as lenient.
In fixing a custodial sentence, Mr Justice Birmingham said the court had modified it to take account of the fact that Cox was facing incarceration after avoiding custody at the original sentencing hearing and was conscious of how difficult that would be for him.
The court heard Cox had agreed to present himself at Castlebar Garda station next Wednesday to begin serving his sentence.