A man accused of seriously assaulting another man in an unprovoked attack in a Cork seaside town was told that he had to be jailed to prove that violence has consequences.
Judge Colm Roberts said that he could not “allow the message to go out that unprovoked attacks have no consequences”. He said that he therefore had to jail Luke Savage of 102 Russell Heights, Cobh, even though he had changed for the better since the assault in Casement Square, Cobh, in 2018.
That night Savage, now 24, hit a man so hard in the face in an unprovoked attack that he required stitches in his mouth and expensive dental work to repair damaged teeth.
“If you assault someone and do this you’re going to prison,” Judge Roberts said.
He commended the victim, Mathew Terzic, for giving evidence in court.
Mr Terzic, 29, said that although his lip has healed since the assault three years ago, he has been left with scars inside his mouth which can hurt when he drinks hot liquids.
But his main problem following the assault was damage to his two front teeth which required extensive dental work to repair and may cause pain for the rest of his life. He travelled to Croatia for dental work which cost some €1,000.
“After the attack there was shock. I had been out in Cobh lots of times before, nothing like this had happened before," Mr Terzic said.
“My mental health suffered, my confidence was affected. You ask yourself, ‘why did this happen to me?’ It’s changed my whole outlook on going out. I never thought this could happen to me.”
He said that he had no dealings with the accused since the assault.
“I would have appreciated an apology. I appreciate his [difficult] background but the injuries are extensive to me. I still have pain in my teeth and I will have for the rest of my life.”
He said that he did not plan to pursue a civil case against the defendant.
“I really appreciate you coming into court and being as fair as possible and being honest about the effect on your self-esteem,” Judge Roberts said.
Defence solicitor, Don Ryan, said that his client had co-operated with gardaí following the attack.
“He has had quite a difficult past. He was in care for many years, living out of Cobh. When he turned 18, he returned to Cobh after coming out of care.” He said that his client would have apologised but had been told by gardaí to stay away from the man.
“Mr Savage has made a huge effort in his life since [the assault three years ago]. He’s steadied himself, he has two young children, he held down a job for the last year, year and a half.
“The efforts for this man to get to where he is today are significant. This man has gathered together €1200 to pay in compensation to the injured party, that’s a huge amount for for this man.
“Gardaí say he’s doing well, he’s not come to garda notice.” Judge Roberts said that although he accepted that €1200 was a significant sum, when considering the injuries to the injured party, it was “paltry”.
He said that compensation was not his only consideration, if it was, society could become a place where the rich could pay off people for their crimes. Judge Roberts also said that having a difficult background does not allow people to be violent.
“People in care can become terribly productive people in society. Just because he was in care does not give him carte blanche to headbutt someone in the face just because he was in a bad mood.
“The deck of cards given to him are not same as you or I. I accept that. But just because you have limited choices does not mean that you have to make the wrong choices.
“The court has to take into consideration your client, the injured party and society. People in this area have to be able to feel that they can go out and not be assaulted.” Savage pleaded with Judge Roberts for leniency and promised that he had “honestly really changed my life around since then".
The court heard that Savage had previous convictions for assault and violent disorder going back some years and had been given a six-month suspended sentence for another Section 3 assault charge in the past.
The judge said:
Judge Roberts said that while those actions would usually result in a nine-month custodial sentence, he would suspend seven of those months for two years to account for the positive changes Savage had made in his life since the assault.
He said that he hoped the two-month prison sentence would mark the “seriousness" of the crime but still allow him to return to his employment on release.
Savage was ordered to complete an anger management course and an addiction course. He was also ordered to be under supervision of the probation services.
“He has to spend some time in prison. Assault is too serious, and unprovoked assault is definitely too serious,” Judge Roberts said.