A shop assistant has been sentenced to three years in prison with the final eighteen months suspended for biting off part of a man’s nose during an unprovoked attack which was described by his own barrister as “an affront to human dignity”.
Kyle Lally (22), 82 An Drisin, Ballymoneen Road, pleaded guilty last March to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the 38-year-old victim at Munster Avenue on July 4, 2015, contrary to Section 4 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997.
Co-accused, Jack Colleran (21), a second year GMIT business student from 27 Westbrook, Knocknacarra, denied the same charge and was acquitted by a jury following a two-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last November.
He did plead guilty, however, to a lesser charge of assaulting the man, causing him harm, contrary to Section 3 of the same Act.
Sentencing in both cases was adjourned to last week’s court so that an impact statement could be taken from the victim and probation and other reports could be obtained for both accused.
Detective Tom Doyle told the sentence hearing the attack was random and totally unprovoked.
CCTV footage from a nearby business premises led to the apprehension of both accused in the following days, he said.
They fled the scene that night after their attack was disturbed by a group of young women who happened to walk down Munster Avenue by chance on their way home from a concert in Dublin.
Det Doyle said the victim had been attending a family function in a nearby pub and was walking towards Dominick Street in the early hours of the morning to get a taxi home to Salthill.
The CCTV, which was shown at Colleran’s trial in November, shows both youths meeting the man by chance at Munster Avenue.
Lally is seen talking and joking with the man for around fifteen minutes, while Colleran walks away out of camera shot.
Lally is then seen rolling up his sleeves before he punches the unsuspecting victim a number of times in the face.
The man falls to the ground and rolls in under a parked car.
CCTV again captures Lally pulling him out by both legs from under the car, where he had been afforded some protection from the blows and kicks which Lally inflicted on him as he lay defenceless on the ground.
Lally is seen sitting astride the man from where he continues to punch him into the face.
Colleran is then captured on the footage joining in the assault.
He is seen standing over the man and stamping and kicking him in the head and upper body a number of times. He is also seen picking up the man’s mobile phone and smashing it forcibly on the ground before he runs away.
Det. Doyle said the girls later told Gardai they heard Colleran shouting at the victim, “What’s the code?” as he held his mobile phone up.
Det. Doyle said Lally is clearly seen biting the man in the face before fleeing the scene.
The man managed to make his way to a nearby taxi office and from there, Gardaí later took him to hospital. They returned to the scene and found the piece of nose which had been bitten off. A plastic surgeon tried, unsuccessfully, to reattach the skin during a four-hour emergency operation that night.
The man had to have further surgery a few days later when a skin graft, taken from his cheek, was used to replace the flesh torn from his nose.
He has since had two further surgeries on the area and has been left with permanent scarring to his nose and cheek area.
John Kiely, SC for Lally, said his client’s remorse was genuine and he had pleaded guilty to biting the victim’s nose at the earliest opportunity.
“He didn’t believe the injuries he inflicted were as severe. He didn’t think he had broken the skin. His recollection is vague because he had a copious amount of alcohol taken,” Mr Kiely said.
In reply to Mr Kiely, Det Doyle said he had not been able to establish any motive for the assault. He said both accused came from very good families and he believed their remorse to be genuine. They had no previous convictions and had not come to Garda attention since this attack, he added.
The court heard both accused had paid €10,000 compensation each to the victim.
Mr Kiely said Lally was also willing to pay an additional €50 compensation to the victim on a weekly basis.
He said he had asked his client why had this impulsive, unprovoked attack taken place, but Lally had been unable to come up with any answer.
Mr Kiely said a report from a psychiatrist pointed to a possibility that prescribed antidepressant medication, which Lally had been taking at the time of the assault, coupled with the copious amount of alcohol he had consumed on the night, might have caused him to behave in such an “uninhibited” manner.
He said Lally has since weaned himself off the medication because it had made him feel detached and he had also stopped drinking and taking illicit substances.
“He is aware of the harm he caused, but such behaviour is inexcusable. In fact, it’s an affront to human dignity; to bite another human being in a manner that would cause a lifelong disfigurement like that,” Mr Kiely said.
Paul Flannery, SC, for Colleran said his client had pleaded guilty to a lesser assault charge and he had told Gardai he got involved in the assault because he thought Lally was in peril.
Det Doyle said he would have an issue with that as it was the victim who was lying defenceless on the ground.
Mr Flannery described his client’s action as a form of blackguardism, which did not warrant a custodial sentence.
The victim read his own impact statement into evidence.
He said the assault had completely shattered his life. He thanked the girls who came on the scene that night, stating that if they had not arrived, he would have suffered “a much graver fate.”
“I have seen the CCTV footage and the utterly barbaric and inexplicable conduct of Lally and Colleran in continuing to attack my lifeless body, culminates in them biting off a large part of the left-hand side of my nose, before stealing and smashing by phone on the ground.”
He said this had been a random assault and they could have picked on anyone else that night.
The man said that he had been left with an ugly and disfiguring scar and because skin had to be grafted from his cheek, he now had hair growing on the side of his nose, which required regular shaving.
He said he had completely lost his “lust for life”. He no longer socialised with friends as he used to and would need counselling into the future to help him cope with feelings of anxiety and fear.
“Just getting through the day can be a struggle,” he said. “I feel real anger about the assault and at both Lally and Colleran.
Their conduct, both before and after the assault was shameful.
“The apologies tendered were second-hand, self-serving and very belated.
“Had the Gardai not succeeded in tracking them down and had the incident not been recorded on CCTV, I don’t believe justice would ever have been served.
“I don’t believe they have shown genuine remorse for their conduct and they certainly have not attempted to make genuine recompense for their conduct or its effect on me.
“I believe the remorse expressed is self-remorse and borne out of concern for their own futures.
“I’m distressed at the thought they will walk away from their crimes with nothing but a stain on their reputations, which will fade in time, unlike my scarring.
“They owe a debt to society for their despicable actions,” the man said in his statement to the court.
He then thanked hospital staff, Det Doyle and Garda Marie Conneely for their professionalism and understanding during his ordeal.
Conor Fahy, SC prosecuting, said the DPP had directed the Section 4 assault stood in the midrange on the scale of gravity, meriting a sentence between four and seven years,
Judge Rory McCabe asked Mr Fahy to ask the victim what his attitude towards sentencing was, following the submissions made in court by both defence counsels.
Mr Fahy returned and said the victim hoped the court would take a hardline approach to sentencing.
Judge McCabe said this had been a shocking, brutal and sustained attack on a defenceless man.
He said Lally had initiated the attack and had inflicted gruesome injuries on the victim, while Colleran had joined in with enthusiasm.
“He kicked and stamped on the victim repeatedly. He decided to get involved.”
He said the fact they came from very good families could be viewed by some as an aggravating factor.
“Lally’s extreme act of violence remains unexplained and requires an immediate custodial sentence,” the judge said.
Taking both mitigating and aggravating factors into account, he said the appropriate sentence in Lally’s case was three years in prison with the final 18 months suspended for three years.
Noting the probation service deemed Colleran a suitable candidate for community service, the judge ordered him to carry out the maximum of 240 hours of community service in lieu of a 18-month prison sentence.
Judge McCabe said he would make no further order with regard to further compensation payments, adding it was open to the victim to pursue civil claims if he so wished.