Man awaits sentence for assault leaving victim in wheelchair

A Mayo man has been remanded in custody pending sentence for an assault two years ago which caused his victim serious brain injuries leaving him wheelchair bound and requiring life long care.

Gary Stapleton (aged 25), punched his victim once knocking him down and then kicked him once in the head as he lay motionless on the ground at Corrig Avenue, Dun Laoghaire.

His victim, Mr Noel Hudson (aged 22), suffered a traumatic brain injury and remains in hospital care.

Stapleton, of Hillview Crescent, Bunree Road, Ballina, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing Mr Hudson serious harm on March 18, 2006.

Judge Katherine Delahunt remanded Stapleton in custody until next month for sentencing to allow her consider medical reports, victim impact statements and defence documentation.

Defence cousel, Mr Patrick Gageby SC, submitted that Stapleton was "not a young man who ran wild for years, or a fellow who was in constant trouble or a thorn in the side of authorities but the unfortunate events of the night are written in stone and he will have to deal with it for the rest of his life."

Mr James Stapleton told Judge Delahunt that his son, Gary, had completed a FÁS course in Mayo the week before the assault. He had returned home to Dublin while he decided whether to do further courses or look for a job and met friends that night to go for a drink.

Mr Stapleton said that after the assault his son returned to Mayo where he now lived with his girlfriend.

Ms Deborah Stapleton said her brother "had gone into himself" since the incident and was "regretful". She said she would never have thought him capable of this assault and was "in shock" when she heard about it.

Sergeant William Power told Ms Karen O'Connor BL, prosecuting, that Mr Hudson, his cousin Conor Hudson, and other friends were socialising in Dun Laoghaire on St. Patrick's night and were finishing up the night outside Abrakebabra on George's Street when a minor altercation broke out.

Sgt Power said there was "an unpleasant scene" between Mr Hudson's group and Gary Stapleton, his cousin Ryan Stapleton and a friend. There was some verbal exchanges, Gary Stapleton was pushed to the ground by Noel Hudson but got back up again and the two groups separated when gardaí arrived.

The Hudson's group was followed up Corrig Avenue by Ryan Stapleton demanding an apology. There was some name calling and Noel Hudson pushed Ryan Stapleton to the ground. This was observed by Gary Stapleton and his friend who followed Noel Hudson as he walked away.

The Stapleton's friend, who has opted for trial in this case, punched Noel Hudson, dazing him. Mr Hudson was struck in the jaw with a clenched fist by Gary Stapleton knocking him backwards to the ground where he hit his head.

Sgt Power said Gary Stapleton then kicked Noel Hudson once in the head as he lay "totally out of it" on the ground. The Stapleton group then left the area.

Noel Hudson was brought initially to St. Vincent's Hospital and then transferred to Beaumount Hospital where he was operated on for a severe brain injury but remained in a coma. Doctors feared he might enter a "persistent vegetative state" but in late 2007 he began to show "remarkable progress".

Sgt Power said he now resided in the young chronic-sick unit of The Royal Hospital, Donnybrook after a period in the National Rehabilitation Hospital. He remained wheelchair bound, is almost totally dependent and will require life long care. Doctors hope he might be able to return to the care of his family in the future.

Sgt Power said Gary Stapleton, who has one previous conviction for theft, presented himself voluntarily at the garda station the following morning. He told gardaí he could not recall much of his actions but "had a gut feeling something bad had happened".

He later told gardaí that his actions on the night had "sickened" him and were out of character. He said he deeply regretted what he had done and wished to apologise to all those involved.

Sgt Power agreed with Mr Gageby (with Mr Justin McQuade BL) that other "younger" people in the Stapleton group had told Gary Stapleton his cousin Ryan had been kicked by Mr Hudson but this was not the case.

Mr Gageby said the case was "an appalling tragedy" for Mr Hudson and his family. He said there was no justification for any sort of violence being inflicted on him.

He added that it was "an un-thought-out attack". Stapleton felt "extreme remorse" for his actions and a probation report indicated he was at low risk of re-offending.

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