Dale Creighton was assaulted at the footbridge over the Tallaght bypass between Saint Dominic’s Rd and Greenhills Rd in 2014.
He died in hospital the following day. The cause of his death was blunt force injury to his head and face.
Six men and one woman were charged with murder and went on trial at the Central Criminal Court in October, after pleading not guilty. However, those charges were dropped on the 15th day of the trial, after they pleaded guilty to lesser charges and had their new pleas accepted.
The seven accused, who are from Tallaght, had all rung in the new year in a local nightclub.
They are 23-year-old Aisling Burke and her 28-year-old brother David Burke, both with a current address at Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath; Graham Palmer, aged 26, current address at Park Avenue, Portarlington, Co Laois; Ross Callery, aged 23, currently of Gortlum Cottages, Brittas, Co Dublin; James Reid, aged 26, currently of Glen Aoibhinn, Gorey, Co Wexford; Jason Beresford, aged 23, with an address at Coill Diarmuida, Ard a’ Laoi, Castledermot, Co Kildare; and Gerard Stevens, aged 27, currently of Grosvenor Square, Rathmines in Dublin.
They were before the court for sentencing yesterday.
Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said they were not evil or bad people but described the assault as prolonged and vicious. She noted that, following a claim he had stolen Aisling Burke’s phone, Mr Creighton was “marched up the steps onto the footbridge and mercilessly kicked and beaten” in “a kangaroo court”.
“Not one of the young people shouted stop,” she said.
She said it would be of comfort to society had such a crime been committed by people with a known or proven propensity for violence. However, these were “all pretty normal, average young people”. She said this was particularly frightening for society.
She said courts regularly encountered people sorting out their differences in this way. A person, deemed to have offended a member of the group, might be given a hiding as punishment.
“Rough justice is no justice,” she said. “No one is entitled to take the law into their own hands. Our society is governed by the rule of law.”
She accepted that Aisling Burke’s bag was stolen as she walked home alone and she raised the alarm with her brother, David Burke.
Three men ran past a witness, who gave chase. CCTV showed Mr Creighton being followed to the bridge by this man and Reid. The deceased was seen with a knife.
David Burke arrived with a pole and confronted the deceased. They all disappeared off camera and Reid reemerged with the knife. He and the witness then left.
David Burke and the deceased remerged as a car appeared.
An eighth person, James O’Brien, got out of the car, kicked the deceased twice and punched him nine times to his head. O’Brien, who was later jailed for a year for that assault, then left.
Callery was next on the scene and struck the deceased a heavy blow, sending him backwards. Mr Creighton could be seen running from Callery and Burke, but fell at the bottom of a tree. They caught up with him and one took a phone from him. He got up but they followed him up the steps of the bridge.
Following calls from passersby, gardaí in Tallaght Garda Station were able to turn the CCTV camera on to the bridge and capture the remaining four minutes of the attack. Palmer, Reid, Beresford and Aisling Burke were on the bridge by the time the camera was turned.
“It’s clear that by that time, Dale Creighton was in a very serious condition. His body is visibly limp,” she said, adding this was particularly noticeable when one person was trying to force him up. “He resembled a rag doll, who had no independent power of movement.”
She said the most shocking incidents were perpetrated by Beresford. While Palmer tried to lift him, Beresford was seen kicking him “full in the face as if his head were a football”. He was also seen stamping on him while prone and grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and flinging him down the steps, she said.
“Ross Callery was unable to resist a kick while Dale Creighton lay prone,” she said.
She noted that during Stephens’ one minute at the scene, he gave a number of kicks and slaps to his upper body and head.
“The assault effectively ended when Jason Beresford flung the limp body of Dale Creighton down the steps,” she said.
He had been dragged back up by the time gardaí arrived and all were seen fleeing.
Palmer, Callery, Stevens, Beresford and David Burke had changed their pleas to guilty of manslaughter and were sentenced yesterday.
The judge sentenced each of the five killers to 10 years, suspending various portions, depending on their culpability and circumstances.
Palmer was jailed for a total of five years. Callery received a six-year jail term. David Burke received seven and a half years. Stephens received the shortest term, at three years. Beresford, the youngest of the five killers, was jailed for six years.
Aisling Burke pleaded guilty to violent disorder. The judge said she would impose a five-year sentence, with the last four years suspended for two years. She adjourned imposing the sentence for a week to give the single mother time to arrange childcare.
James Reid pleaded guilty to possession of a knife. The judge noted he had not brought the weapon to the scene and had not used it. She imposed a two-year sentence, suspended fully.
Some members of the victim’s family expressed their upset in court at the various suspensions. They had all left by the time Reid entered the witness box and entered a €1,000 bond to be of good behaviour for two years “Mr Reid, you’re free to go,” said the judge. “Be careful.”