A SERVING garda was given an 18-month jail term — with 12 months suspended — yesterday for seriously assaulting a man in Cork city centre while off-duty.
Dean Foley of Blarney, Co Cork, who was stationed at Bantry, Co Cork, pleaded guilty in Cork Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to Stephen Gerard Murphy, of Grenagh, Co Cork, on September 12, 2009.
The assault followed an exchange of words where Mr Murphy referred to Foley’s brother, Travis Foley, as wearing “a gay shirt”.
Mr Murphy was knocked unconscious, suffered bleeding to the brain, broken teeth, broken bones in his face and generally “got an unmerciful beating”, said Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin. The judge said the level of violence was so frightening that a witness in a taxi did not feel safe to leave the car until Foley was gone.
The judge said: “I appreciate your career is at risk but I do not think I can dispose of it other than by imposing a custodial sentence.”
Emotional scenes followed the sentencing as Foley’s mother wept loudly, appeared to collapse and had to be assisted from court by paramedics.
Foley cried in the witness box as he apologised. He said the fortnight he spent remanded in custody had been terrifying, and accepted that he only had himself to blame.
“This is something I have never done before in my life, it is never ever going to happen again,” he said. “I just beg for leniency.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin described Mr Murphy as a noble, decent man who had decided to make his way home because he felt drunk. The judge said that Foley’s assault on Mr Murphy was never a contest of equals.
Mr Murphy previously testified: “I was probably stumbling and intoxicated. I don’t usually get that bad. I don’t leave myself get that vulnerable. I just wanted to get home. Someone said something against what I was wearing. They were pointing at me. I pointed at them. One of them was wearing a brightly coloured shirt. I just said: ‘Ha ha ha, look at his clothes.’ I said it looked gay or something.
“I went to get a taxi. I got a beating and I can’t remember much after that. I woke up in hospital. The report says I had bleeding on the brain, fractures to the face, broken nose and a few broken teeth.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin agreed to an application by Donal O’Sullivan, defence, to re-enter the case today, as there was further evidence in mitigation which the defence wished to put before the court. However, the judge said the jail sentence stood until the re-entry.
Mr O’Sullivan made a number of submissions in mitigation. Accepting that it was a serious assault, he said: “On the other side, this man has never been in trouble, he has an impeccable record, personally and in his profession. He has done his best to deal with the case properly. He has had a taste of custody. It would be very difficult for him. He has sold everything he has to raise compensation.”
Foley brought compensation to court that was described as substantial but no figure was given.
“He is genuinely remorseful,” said Mr O’Sullivan.
“One has to ask would the community be served by the imposition of a custodial sentence. I would submit that a suspended sentence would better serve the community.”
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