'Mad dog' duo set victim's hair on fire

Two women who tore out another woman’s hair and set it on fire when they were behaving "like mad dogs", have been remanded on continuing bail for sentence by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Two women who tore out another woman’s hair and set it on fire when they were behaving "like mad dogs", have been remanded on continuing bail for sentence by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Antoinette Geoghan (aged 18) of Cushlawn Park, Tallaght and Jennifer Melia (aged 26) of Custom House, Gardener Street, Dublin 1, both pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Ms Rhona Brady on Parnell Street on October 17, 2003.

Geoghan also pleaded guilty along with Martina O'Connor (aged 18) of Woodford Close, Clondalkin to robbing an 18-year-old girl in the Firhouse area a week earlier on October 10, 2003.

Garda Liam O’Donoghue told Mr Dominic McGinn BL, prosecuting, that Ms Brady was stopped at a Centra Shop on the junction of Parnell Street and O’Connell Street for some food with two male friends having left a disco at approximately 3am.

Ms Brady’s friend approached three girls that were standing nearby and had a short conversation with Melia that resulted in an altercation between the two.

Garda O'Donoghue said Melia then started taunting and threatening the man, who ignored her, but she and the other two girls, one of which was Geoghan, turned their attention to Ms Brady.

Melia removed Ms Brady’s cap from her head and handed into Geoghan. The third culprit, who has yet to be dealt with, then set Ms Brady’s hair on fire.

Garda O'Donoghue said that the fire was quickly extinguished but Melia and Geoghan then pulled Ms Brady’s hair and dragged her to the ground. At this point one of her male friends intervened and stopped the assault by striking at both accused.

Ms Brady attended a medical centre where it was found that she had a patch of hair loss measuring 10 cm x 2 cm towards the anterior of her scalp. She also had a large 10 cm bruise on her thigh and some bruising on her arm.

Garda O'Donoghue was given an adequate description of the perpetrators by Ms Brady and her friends. He subsequently saw the three women a short distance away and arrested them. CCTV footage of the incident was also used in their identification.

Garda O'Donoghue agreed with Ms Una Ni Raifeartaigh BL, defending Geoghan, that her client was intoxicated at the time and admitted to being present at the time of the assault.

He accepted that she was vague about her involvement because she found it difficult to recall details of the incident and further accepted that Geoghan did not participate to the same degree as the other two women.

Garda O'Donoghue agreed with Mr Padraig Dwyer BL, defending Melia, that his client’s four previous convictions indicated that she is not normally a violent woman and that her behaviour on the night was out of character.

Earlier garda Gavin Ross told Ms Marie Torrens BL, prosecuting, that Pauline Costello had been leaving her house to celebrate her 18th birthday when she was approached by a group of about four women.

One of the girls asked her for a cigarette and then a light. Ms Costello recognised one of the group as Antoinette Geoghan.

Garda Ross said O'Connor, who was in the group with Geoghan, verbally abused Ms Costello, warning her that she "would get pregnant dressed like that".

Geoghan and O'Connor then proceeded to pull the girl’s hair but she escaped. The two chased after her and then pulled her to the ground.

They grabbed Ms Costello’s handbag from her shoulder, breaking the strap, before they fled the scene with the bag containing €100 in cash, her mobile phone and passport.

Garda Ross told Judge Donagh McDonagh that while Geoghan had one previous conviction for robbery, her co-accused, O Connor, had 72 previous convictions which dated back to when she was 16 years old.

Ms Sinead McMullen BL, defending O'Connor, told Judge McDonagh that her client had a significantly difficult background which started with her parents separation when she was 13 years old. She had been in Oberstown, North Dublin, a residential home for young offenders, from 2002 to 2004 and was out on bail at the time of this offence after appealing a sentence in the High Court.

Ms McMullen said her client's criminal history was down to family circumstance and a lack of intervention by the State at a time when it could have assisted O'Connor.

O'Connor’s father, Martin, told Judge McDonagh, that as "a father, a taxpayer and a citizen in this country" he had a right to speak on his daughter’s behalf, after the judge ruled that it was not necessary to hear him following a suggestion from Ms McMullen that he was available to give evidence if needed.

Mr O'Connor said that a psychological assessment on her when she was much younger concluded that she needed help from the health board that she was never given.

He also said that her defence counsel ignored his request not to appeal her sentence which resulted in "a girl without a head on her shoulders" being let out of prison and committing an offence within two weeks of her release.

Ms Ni Raifeartaigh said that Geoghan’s mother left the family home when she was two years old and her father was subsequently involved with many other women, leaving her with 16 siblings. She was brought up by her paternal grandmother.

Ms Ni Raifeartaigh said that Geoghan now has a difficulty trusting people in authority but she said her client has a one-year-old daughter with whom she has a very strong bond which has brought stability to her life.

Mr Dwyer said that Melia has had numerous hospital admissions from an early age due to suicide attempts and drug addiction.

He said she was allegelly sexually abused when she was eight or nine years old which resulted in her sniffing aerosol cans at nine years of age. By 13 she was taking heroin.

Melia has an eight-year-old child who has been left with a physical disability following a car accident they were both in. Melia has had to undergo plastic surgery due to facial injuries from the incident.

Mr Dwyer told Judge Donagh that his client is ashamed and has shown remorse for the assault on Ms Brady.

Judge McDonagh said that he thought the evidence showed how "gangs of young women behave like mad dogs" and told the court that this was an example of "thuggish behaviour pure and simple".

He told Geoghan, Melia and O'Conner that he was sufficiently angry to take a unbalanced approach to their sentence, which he adjourned after he shouted that they were "three little bullies".

"Yet you all come in here looking for mercy. Babies won’t keep you out of jail," he warned.

Judge McDonagh told the three accused that if they could not demonstrate to some extent that they can control their lives that control will be imposed on them.

He remanded all three on bail for sentence on November 14 and ordered an updated probation report after advising the two prosecuting gardaí "if they so much as jaywalk, I want to be told".

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