A wheelchair user wept as he recalled how he was attacked as he slept in his specially modified camper van. He thought he was going to be killed.
A victim impact statement read out in court on behalf of Patrick Doyle recounted how Roelof Roberts, of Tiger Moon, Kinsale Marina, Pier Road, in Kinsale, began shaking Mr Doyle’s camper van and then reached in and put his hands around Mr Doyle’s neck.
Bandon District Court heard that Mr Doyle, who is paralysed from the chest down, was struck a number of times, before he started the camper van and accelerate away. As he drove, he could hear his assailant laughing.
“I doubt I will be able to recover and lead a relatively normal life again,” said Mr Doyle.
In his statement, read out to court by Judge Mary Dorgan, Mr Doyle, a 48-year-old father of one who lives in Dublin, said he had been paralysed following a road accident in 1992. He said he drove a specially modified camper van and regularly slept in it. He said he sometimes experienced a “lowness” as a result of a marriage break-up.
On December 6 last, his van was parked at Pier Road, in Kinsale, when he was awoken at 1am. Someone was shaking the vehicle.
“I felt frightened and particularly vulnerable,” he said.
He rolled down the window, and then two hands were placed around his neck. He said the assailant “tried to strangle me”.
Mr Doyle said he was hit in the face several times and that it was obvious to him that the man attacking him was intoxicated.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” he said.
Mr Doyle started the van and drove off, with the assailant falling to the ground.
“I could hear him laugh,” Mr Doyle said.
Since the incident, he said he had suffered psychologically, including panic attacks and flashbacks. He said he had lived quite an independent life, but he was now fearful.
He had driven from Dublin to attend court, but had collected his nephew in Thurles on the way, “as I was too frightened to come here on my own”.
“I can see no way out,” he said, adding that he felt despair about his future.
A previous court hearing was told that Roberts, aged 67, had mistakenly believed the camper van was his own.
Roberts’ solicitor, Tony Greenway, said his client had pleaded guilty, at the earliest opportunity, to the assault causing harm charge. Roberts, he said, wished the incident had never happened. Mr Doyle said Roberts had called him names, “because I wouldn’t hit him back”.
Judge Dorgan said the Probation Service had found Roberts to be of low risk of reoffending and this was a first offence, adding: “It would appear to be out of character.” She described the victim impact statement as “harrowing”.
“I hope you get back your independence,” she told him. “This is behind you now.”
Mr Greenway said his client felt “totally anguished and sorry about this”.
“He has never been in trouble in his life before,” Mr Greenway said.
“It’s not an excuse, but it was because of alcohol on the night.” Roberts had already paid €5,000 in compensation.
Judge Dorgan sentenced him to nine months in prison, but said he could carry out 240 hours of community service in lieu, if found suitable to do so by the Probation Service.
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