What started as a "prank"’ by friends on the night of Leaving Cert results celebrations quickly turned into a violent attack on one teenager – sparked by the words, “Will we spread him or what?”
The attack had serious consequences for the injured party and now the three young men who carried out the assault in the Bandon area have been given suspended 18-month sentences at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Detective Garda Fintan Slater said at the height of the attack, the victim had his pants and underpants pulled down and a glass bottle pressed between his buttocks.
His shoelaces were set on fire and he feared he would get sick and choke because of the manner in which he was held on the ground and the fact they would not stop when repeatedly asked. Eventually they did stop. The detective said the bottle was held against his anus but did not penetrate it.
The three defendants who got suspended jail terms were all 18 or 19 at the time of last September’s attack.
They were: Ger O’Mahony of Castlelack, Bandon; Darragh Collins of Scrahane, Enniskeane; and Darragh O’Riordan of Loughneill, Crookstown, Co Cork.
Defence barrister Donal O’Sullivan described it as, “A horrible, stupid, idiotic, schoolboy prank that went way too far. They are all genuinely remorseful. Nobody wanted to harm anybody.”
Barristers Patrick O’Riordan and Emmet Boyle also expressed the remorse of the accused and said the agriculture students had brought a total of €15,000 compensation to court between them.
Judge Helen Boyle said the saddest part of this incident was that the attack was carried out among a group of friends. The judge said even if it did start as an idiotic prank it should have stopped as soon as the victim became distressed and told them to stop but it did not end there. The judge said if a boy or a girl says stop during such an incident it should stop immediately.
“You might have thought it started as a prank but it turned out to be anything but. His pants and underwear were basically put down and a bottle placed between his buttocks. Items of clothing were set on fire. He was in fear he would choke. The three of you were holding him down and utterly humiliating this young man. None of you said you used the bottle. It would appear that the victim was held down by basically all of you and assaulted,” Judge Boyle said.
She outlined the aggravating factors:
- The cowardliness of three against one;
- The humiliation of the victim;
- The failure to stop despite the victim’s obvious fear of choking;
- The use of a bottle;
- The fact it happened on a night of celebration with people the victim took to be his friends.
The mitigating factors were also outlined by the judge:
- The pleas of guilty;
- The absence of previous convictions;
- The fact the defendants were otherwise hardworking members of the community;
- The payment of token of compensation of €5,000 from each defendant;
- The remorse they showed.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to the charge of assault causing harm to the same injured party on September 7, 2020.
The victim read his own victim impact statement in which he said, “My day started full of excitement and joy as I awaited the results of my Leaving Cert.
“We decided to go back to the caravan where it was discussed about attending an after party. I was sitting having a drink while they discussed their plans for the remainder of the night. What happened next turned my whole life inside out and upside down. I could not believe what they had done to me. I trusted them. These people were supposed to be my friends.
“[At home later] I was physically sick. My shoes had burnt laces, my socks were torn in half.
“The impact on me and my family following that night can never be undone. Time cannot be turned back… I do not live the life that I should, being an independent 20-year-old.
"I have not been out socially since the night of the attack. I feel the last 12 months of my life have been stolen from me [and my family].
“I still struggle to understand their actions that night. I still ask, Why me? Had they planned it? Was I an easy target for a laugh?
“I have lost close relationships over this. I have lost the trust of all my friends I had in secondary school as I wonder do they know?
"I had no choice but to hand in my notice in a job that I enjoyed because I couldn’t face people anymore. I locked myself away to try and deal with what happened to me.”
The injured party thanked gardaí for their support. As for his family, he said: “I thank you and couldn’t do this without you.”