Suspended sentences for people who attacked men in ‘orgy of violence’

A man and a woman who subjected two men, who were walking home from a night out, to a violent unprovoked attack were given suspended sentences at Ballina District Court on Tuesday.

At a court sitting in September the facts of the case were outlined. Both Paul Coleman, 23 Amana Estate, Ballina, and Caroline Ryder, 165 Greenhills Estate, Ballina, pleaded guilty to the assaults.

Superintendent Joe Doherty said that gardaí attended the scene of an assault on October 30 2011 at Behy Road. When they arrived they found two bloodied men— Sean McGarry (20 ) and Padraig O’Hora (19 ). The superintendent said that Mr McGarry “was bleeding profusely” from a head wound. The head wound, which was a six centimetre laceration, needed five staples. The man’s face and hands were covered in blood and he also had puncture wounds on his back. Mr O’Hora had bruises to his face, a bite mark on his back and puncture marks on his back. The puncture marks were caused by a high heel shoe.

Earlier that night in a pub’s smoking area, a man (who has since left the jurisdiction ) headbutted Mr McGarry in an unprovoked attack. Mr O’Hora dragged the man off his friend and the man was ejected by security staff. Later that night Mr O’Hora received text messages asking where he was. Mr O’Hora gave the location of where he and Mr McGarry were as he thought it was a friend texting him.

A car pulled up alongside them and two men (one being the man from the pub ) and Coleman got out. Ryder also got out of the car.

Coleman, without warning, attacked Mr McGarry with a wheel brace. In a statement from Mr McGarry he said that he was “dripping blood” and he tried to defend himself. Ryder prevented Mr McGarry from defending himself as Mr McGarry said that he was dragged by his jumper backwards by Ryder. Mr McGarry was then struck another blow to the head by Coleman with the wheel brace and he was knocked unconscious. Witnesses saw Ryder kick out at Mr McGarry while he was unconscious.

Ryder used her high heeled shoe to attack both men, she also bit O’Hora on his back.

Ryder (22 ) has no previous convictions, Coleman (27 ) has one previous conviction.

Judge Mary Devins remanded both on continuing bail to October 23 for probation reports. The judge said that if either of the injured parties were in court that day and wanted to be heard, that they would.

On Tuesday, Mr McGarry told the court that after the incident he missed a lot of time at college and the attack affected both him and his family. He said that he never knew what the incident was over, “even to this day”. Judge Devins asked him his view on sentencing and he said to the judge, “that’s your decision at the end of the day.” Mr McGarry said that he was not interested in compensation from either defendant. A letter composed by Coleman was handed into Mr McGarry from the defendant’s solicitor, Gerry McGovern.

Mr O’Hora told the court that he still has scars from the high heeled shoe. He also said that he did not want compensation.

Solicitor Gerry McGovern said that Coleman is now living back at home and has reduced his alcohol intake. He said that his client was drinking heavily at the time due to family illnesses, which “caused him to go wild”, and Coleman may have been under the influence of other substances at the time. Coleman told the court that he was “genuinely sorry” and has regretted the attack “every day of my life since.”

Solicitor for Ryder, John Gordan said that this was “a dreadful blip in an otherwise excellent career.” Ryder said that he is “truly and deeply sorry” for what happened, “what I did was terrible”, but “because I was drinking I reacted so badly.”

Judge Devins said that when she heard the facts she expressed that this was “a most horrific unprovoked attack”. The judge said “this was an extreme example of disinhibiting effect of alcohol or illegal drugs.” The judge said the defendants could not even be described as “wild animals” as “wild animals don’t attack gratuitously.” Judge Devins said the “gratuitous violence” that night was an “orgy of violence”.

Judge Devins said that she believed that Coleman was genuinely remorseful and was taken aback by his vicious actions on the night, but said that he would be more taken aback if Mr McGarry had been left paralysed or dead. Judge Devins convicted and fined him €1,000, directed that he pay €500 to Down Syndrome Association, and sentenced him to six months in prison; suspended for 12 months. Conditions attached to the suspended sentence are that he abstains from alcohol and illegal drugs; that no offences are to be committed; that he be of good behaviour and keep the peace, and returns to the court on October 22 2013.

The injured parties and those who attended court with them walked out of court during this sentencing.

For Ryder’s assault on O’Hora she was convicted and fined €750 and directed to pay €500 to the Down Syndrome Association. She was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, on same conditions as set out for Coleman. For the assault on McGarry she was convicted and fined €750 and sentenced to four months in prison consecutive, suspended for 12 months, again on the same conditions.

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