Ballina man awaits sentencing in wheelchair assault case

A Mayo man has been remanded in custody pending sentence for his part in an assault which left the victim wheelchair-bound and requiring lifelong care as a result of serious brain injuries.

James Byrne (26 ) with an address at the Ridgepool Apartments, Barrett Street, Ballina, ran towards the victim and punched him with a fist in the face, leaving the man dazed. His friend Gary Stapleton (25 ) then punched the man once, knocking him down, and then kicked him once in the head as he lay motionless on the ground.

Their victim, Mr Noel Hudson (22 ), suffered a traumatic brain injury and remains in hospital care.

Byrne pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing Mr Hudson harm on March 18 2006 at Corrig Avenue, Dun Laoghaire.

He had eight previous convictions for criminal damage and theft and had not come to the attention of the Gardai since.

Stapleton, (25 ) of Hillview Crescent, Bunree Road, Ballina was jailed for six years last June after he pleaded guilty to a more serious charge of intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm.

Mr Hudson was brought initially to St Vincent's Hospital and then transferred to Beaumount Hospital where he was operated on for a severe brain injury but remained in a coma. Doctors feared he might enter a "persistent vegetative state" but in late 2007 he began to show "remarkable progress".

He now lives in the young chronic sick unit of the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook after a period in the National Rehabilitation Hospital. He remains wheelchair-bound, is almost totally dependent and will require lifelong care. Doctors hope he might be able to return to the care of his family in the future.

Judge Katherine Delahunt said she needed time to consider the matter before she revoked Byrne's bail and remanded him in custody until next month for sentence.

Mr Brendan Nix SC (with Ms Marie Torrens BL ), defending, told the court that a psychologist’s report concluded that his client was not likely to come before the courts again.

"He has become somewhat reclusive and is not out and about as much as he had been before. He has kept his bib clean," Mr Nix said.

He told the court that although Byrne denied to gardai that he had said to Gary Stapleton "you already floored him, you should not have kicked him while he was down," his client now acknowledged that he had said that.

"He denied it because he said he did not want to be as seen as putting the boot in on his friend," Mr Nix told Judge Delahunt.

 

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