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Suspended prison sentence over ‘vicious assault’ at Limerick hotel

A WATERFORD man on a trip to Limerick was struck a number of times, knocked to the ground and his head stamped on in an “unprovoked attack”.

Lee O’ Brien, age 25, of Cratloe Student Village, Caherdavin, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm at the South Court Hotel in the early hours of September 9, 2018. Judge Tom O’Donnell said it was a “vicious assault driven by alcohol”.

Outlining the case, John O'Sullivan BL, instructed by state solicitor Padraig Mawe, said the victim from Waterford, aged in his early twenties at the time, had come to Limerick for an exhibition.

“He was staying in Limerick. He went socialising in the city. The victim and his friends returned to the South Court Hotel and went to the residents’ bar. At 4.30am, without any provocation, he was struck a number of times by Mr O’Brien, knocked to the ground and he (Mr O’Brien) stamped on his head on at least three occasions.

“He (Mr O’Brien) targeted his head. The victim was in a vulnerable position on the ground. He (Mr O’Brien) could have walked away. The victim was fortunate the injuries were not more serious,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

The investigating garda, Eoin Cleary said when they arrived at the scene they spoke to the injured party who had a cut over his right eye and spoke to the accused. Garda Cleary said Mr O’Brien was identified on CCTV.

The court heard that when Mr O’Brien was arrested by appointment at a later date and charged he replied: “I’m very sorry. That’s not me.” Mr O’Sullivan asked Garda Cleary how the victim is now.

“There were no long lasting injuries. He has made a full recovery. He declined to give a victim impact statement,” said Garda Cleary.

Mr O'Sullivan said that after Mr O’Brien was arrested his “only explanation was drink doesn’t agree with me”.

“It appears there was a family row. The victim had gone outside the hotel to calm things down,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

Garda Cleary said Mr O’Brien has 16 previous convictions including for burglary, and theft.

Ms O’Hagan said Mr O’Brien has a young child and a long term partner.

“He is utterly appalled and disgusted - it is exceptionally out of character. The victim came to Limerick city to enjoy himself and it should not have resulted in this,” said Ms O’Hagan, who added that the defendant had €500 in compensation for the victim.

The barrister said Mr O’Brien had “quite a tough upbringing”.

“He lost his father when he was 10 and fell in with a colourful peer group. Since the beginning of the pandemic he has been in full-time employment. This happened four years ago. He has mended his ways. He has reconciled his issues with drugs and alcohol. He is exceptionally apologetic,” said Ms O’Hagan.

Judge Tom O’Donnell said unfortunately this type of incident is far too common in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol.

“The victim was minding his own business when he was effectively set upon. It was a vicious assault driven by alcohol. His previous convictions are not helpful. It shows a propensity to violence,” said Judge O’Donnell.

The judge said under normal circumstances it was deserving of an immediate custodial sentence.

However, in light of Mr O’Brien’s plea, the substantial change in his behaviour and attitude, and dealing with his difficulties a two year suspended sentence was imposed. He was also ordered to pay €500 to the victim.

Judge O’Donnell warned if there is any trouble in the next two years Mr O’Brien will be back before him.