A Limerick man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for leaving a school boy with permanent brain damage after beating him unconscious in an unprovoked attack.
The 18-year-old from Lisanalta, Dooradoyle, who was in the care of the HSE at the time, was caught on camera inflicting 65 kicks and stamps to his 16-year-old victim’s head, along with two stamps to his chest and 26 punches.
He had originally been charged with attempting to murder the boy on July 23, 2010 as the victim waited for his mother at a service station in Corbally, Co Clare. However, a plea to intentionally causing his victim serious harm was accepted in the Central Criminal Court.
CCTV footage of the almost five-minute, frenzied attack was shown in court today, after Mr Justice Paul Carney warned that anyone who was squeamish should leave.
The footage showed the victim sitting on a windowsill when he was attacked by the accused. The attacker repeatedly punched, kicked and stamped on the boy’s head as he lay motionless on the ground and the assault continued long after the boy had stopped moving.
The accused then left his victim’s body lying in a pool of blood on the forecourt. A car was seen driving by his body before the accused returned a few moments later to stamp, kick and punch the unconscious teenager again.
The court heard previously that 11 eyewitnesses observed the attack, but it was not until this point that a man described in court as ‘a good Samaritan’ was seen intervening and moving the criminal away.
The victim was taken to Limerick Hospital, where he was kept on life support for eight days before being transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.
A medical report said the teenager still suffers from weakness on his right side, deafness, as well as memory and speech problems as a result of the attack.
The court heard that the accused was in the care of the HSE when he carried out the attack. He was being transferred back to his accommodation by two female social care workers when he demanded the driver stop the car at the service station.
He had wrongly thought that his victim was involved in having his friend imprisoned for life.
“I beat the head off him. I danced over his head,” he said when arrested.
Mr Justice Carney said the facts of the case were dramatically recorded by CCTV, the viewing of which was necessary to appreciate the gratuitous kicking of the victim’s head and to understand the sentence.
He said that he was taking into consideration the unprovoked and sustained nature of the attack, its ferocity and the nature of the injuries. He also said he was considering that, only for the intervention of a third party, those injuries would have been worse.
“I assess the outrage as meriting 15 years in prison,” he said.
The victim's mother had previously given a victim impact statement.
She said the service station was her usual place to collect her son because she felt it would be safe. However, that night she was greeted by her son’s body lying on the ground, recognising him only from his clothes.
“He had been battered so badly and his head was swollen and black,” she said. “It’s a vision I’ll take with me to my grave.”
She said she and her family did not know if their child was alive or dead as they followed his ambulance to the hospital. They learned of the fracture to his skull and eye socket, as well as the bleed to his brain, which still affects the entire right side of his body.
“He now has slurred speech and his handwriting is three times slower than average,” she said of her son, who had received seven honours in his Junior Cert.
She explained that his short-term memory has been affected, which makes education difficult, as do his problems with concentration and cognitive fatigue.
He also has problems with balance and coordination, which make playing sports difficult for the former rugby, soccer and swimming enthusiast. These problems will also limit his chances of finding a physical job or trade.
Mr Justice Carney said the defendant’s dysfunctional background offered little mitigation, but he took into account his age and guilty plea. He suspended the final three years of the sentence on condition the attacker stay away from the victim and his family in perpetuity.