People should be able to enjoy Christmas festivities without being assaulted – judge

Court hears Good Samaritan was attacked three times after he tried to intervene in row

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

People should be able to go out to enjoy the Christmas season with friends without being attacked as happened a Good Samaritan who intervened when a man had a row with his girlfriend, a judge has stated.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan said Stephen O’Flaherty (24) had engaged in a vicious and brutal assault of father of three, Frank O’Mahony (46) when he attacked him in McDonald’s in Winthrop Street, Cork on December 17th, 2017.

O’Flaherty, a butcher and father of one, from St John’s Terrace, Old Youghal Road in Cork had pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to Mr O’Mahony.

Sgt Colin Greenwood told how Mr O’Mahony was out socialising with friends and had gone with them to McDonalds at around 3.45am on the day in question and was returning from the toilet when he encountered O’Flaherty.

O’Flaherty was having a row with his girlfriend and Mr O’Mahony asked her was she alright, whereupon O’Flaherty attacked him, knocking him to the ground and striking him some 16 times with his arms, elbows and knees.

Mr O’Mahony was dazed and confused but he managed to pick himself up and he approached O’Flaherty to ask him what the assault had been about when O’Flaherty kneed him in the head and headbutted him in the face.

Two security men apprehended O’Flaherty and were escorting him from McDonald’s when he broke free and threw a single punch at Mr O’Mahony knocking him to the ground in what was a third, separate attack.

Mr O’Mahony was taken by ambulance to Cork University Hospital where he was treated for cuts to his nose and his scalp with the latter wound requiring four stitches, said Sgt Greenwood.

O’Flaherty presented himself at Mayfield Garda Station after footage of the assault was shown on RTÉ’s Crimecall and gardaí issued an appeal to anyone who might recognise the assailant.

Mr O’Mahony was in court but Sgt Greenwood read out a Victim Impact Statement on his behalf in which he revealed that the attack had left him fearful of encountering O’Flaherty again in Cork.

“When I came out of the loo [in McDonalds], I saw a man on the stairs being verbally abusive towards a girl who appeared to be his girlfriend. I did not know either of them,” said Mr O’Mahony in his Victim Impact Statement.

“I asked the girl if she was all right and the man started talking at and to me – because I had too much drink take to be sensible, I decided to eyeball him, to let him know I wasn’t afraid of him – I wish I had just walked away instead.

“I didn’t say a single word to him before he hit me – I think I fell down after the first punch but he kept on hitting me – one memory I have of the beating is of him holding me down on the floor and elbowing me in the back of the head.”

Mr O’Mahony told how he was taken to CUH and later spent two days recovering in bed at home before he was able to return to work. Even then the assault had left a legacy.

“Work was fine but walking around town at lunch was difficult. I decided to wear my glasses – I wasn’t wearing them the night of the attack – a hat and a different jacket to the one I was wearing when I was attacked.

“It was so I would look different and not be immediately recognisable – I knew it was irrational but I was scared that I would meet my assailant again on the street and that he would attack me again.”

Sgt Greenwood told the court O’Flaherty has 20 previous convictions but he agreed with defence barrister, Mahon Corkery BL that his client had made full admissions in relation to the assault and entered an early guilty plea.

Mr Corkery said that at the time O’Flaherty was in the process of breaking up from his girlfriend and the mother of his now three-year-old daughter and he began drinking and was taking cocaine.

He said O’Flaherty had since undertaken an anger management course and he was eager to deal with his addiction issues while he had also written a letter of apology to his victim.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan said Mr O’Mahony had been out socialising with friends just over a week before Christmas but O’Flaherty had put paid to his notions of enjoying the festive season by virtue of his “incredible actions”.

He fully accepted that O’Flaherty was “100 per cent remorseful” for his action but society cannot have “people on the streets assaulting people for no genuine reason” and such behaviour needs to be “removed from our streets”.

He said the nature of the assault was an aggravating factor in that in reality it was three separate assaults, and while the early plea and letter of apology were mitigating factors, the only option open to him was to impose a custodial term.

He sentenced O’Flaherty to 18 months in jail but he suspended the final six months and he ordered him to undergo any anger management or other courses as directed by the Probation Service following his release.

O’Flaherty in court appeared to almost break down as he apologised to Mr O’Mahony for the harm he had caused him, saying he accepted the 12-month term as he fully deserved it for his actions.