Garda Dermot Gibson, who is stationed in Gort, Co Galway, was celebrating his 35th birthday with wife Audrey. They had just returned from honeymoon.
Michael Fitzgerald, aged 22, of Cloughnadromin, Ballysimon, was yesterday jailed for four years at Limerick Circuit Court, where he pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Garda Gibson.
Judge Carroll Moran said that as a result of a “one-punch blow”, Garda Gibson had sustained multiple fractures of the skull and face, and significant bruising to the brain, which resulted in permanent sight and hearing problems and loss of taste and smell.
Garda Gibson, now 36, was out socialising with his wife on the night of September 15/16, 2012. He had only consumed one bottle of Bulmers and was drinking mineral water as he intended to do a run up Croagh Patrick.
He and Mrs Gibson, a nurse, had gone to Granville Park, where they were staying with her family. After they got out of the car, a youth who had been walking by grabbed Mrs Gibson’s handbag and ran off. Garda Gibson gave chase, but the youth got away.
A short time later, Garda Gibson met Michael Fitzgerald. He asked if he had seen a youth who had taken his wife’s handbag.
Without warning, Fitzgerald, who is unemployed, struck Garda Gibson with his fist. He fell and hit his head on the ground.
Mrs Gibson went to her husband’s assistance and put him in the recovery position. As she tried to ring for help, the youth who stole her handbag returned, took her phone, and ran off. A passing taxi-driver came to her assistance and the emergency services were called.
Garda Gibson received multiple head and brain injuries which have had a long-term consequences on his quality of life and his promotion prospects. He suffers from memory loss, has lost his sense of smell and taste, and also suffers from sight and hearing difficulties. He is not allowed drive a Garda patrol car.
Garda Gibson spent 10 months out of work.
Fitzgerald told gardaí he had been drinking and had taken weed and cocaine on the night in question.
Garda Gibson was a complete stranger and Fitzgerald claimed he was in fear and hit him with a closed fist, but that he was sorry.
Judge Moran said it was a deliberate, random, and unprovoked, one-punch blow assault. He said an offer of compensation was considered by the prosecution as unrealistic and too late in the day.
Judge Moran said it was not known if Garda Gibson was making a claim from the Garda compensation fund, but that Fitzgerald could not raise anything like the amount that would be warranted.