Surgery saved man’s life after attack by ‘powerful’ rugby player

A punch thrown by a “big powerful rugby player” had such force that the brain of his victim bounced from side to side inside the skull and only surgery at University Hospital Cork saved his life, a court heard.

The man who carried out the attack outside a Co Limerick fast food premises, James Corbett, age 23, of Sharwood Estate, Newcastle West, became so violent when gardaí tried to arrest him a short time later, he had to be physically subdued.

Corbett, described as a big powerful man and a keen rugby player, pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to Sean Ambrose, a 34-year-old father of two, on August 24, 2015.

After undergoing a number of operations to the brain, Mr Ambrose suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally due to the extent of his injuries.

Doctors at the hospital told him that his brain bounced from one side of his skull to the other in the attack.

His business also suffered and ongoing mood swings were so bad that on one occasion gardaí had to be called to his home when he kept banging a door in anger.

He spent a period in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoighre and underwent speech and language therapy.

Outlining the catastrophic affects the assault had on him and his family, Mr Ambrose, who had been running a road haulage business, told the court in a victim impact statement: “This attack has changed the person I was. I appreciate how lucky I am to be alive today. I am still learning to live and cope with the consequences of somebody else’s violence.”

The court was shown CCTV taken from outside Superbites in Newcastle West which showed Corbett — without warning — strike Mr Ambrose with his fist, knocking him onto the street. As Mr Ambrose lay helpless, Corbett went down and struck him three more times.

Corbett is then seen walking calmly into Superbites before being ejected after another incident there.

Gardaí had to physically subdue Corbett who became violent during the arrest.

Det Garda Eric O’Shea said the two had words in Cronins bar in Newcastle West earlier that night, but this was of no great importance and they went their separate ways. On meeting again some hours later at around 2am, Corbett launched an attack on Mr Ambrose when he saw him outside Superbites.

Corbett punched Mr Ambrose, knocking him to the ground. While helpless on the ground, Corbett struck him a further three times.

In his victim impact statement read out to the court, Mr Ambrose told how the attack had changed his and the lives of all his family.

He said doctors told him that the punch had bounced his brain from one side of the skull to the other. It was, he said, a savage attack.

Mr Ambrose outlined the many mental and physical problem he has to deal with. In hospital, the pain in his head was like a jack hammer. He said he sometimes takes out his frustrations on his loved ones.

Andrew Sexton, for the defence, said €20,000 is available as compensation through a credit union loan where a third party had acted as guarantor.

Judge Tom O’Donnell said it was a very serious charge with very serious consequences for the victim.

He adjourned sentence to March 29 and remanded Corbett on continuing bail.


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