Dublin man smashes beer bottle over Luas passenger's head

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A man who took part in a violent assault on a Luas passenger has been jailed for four years with the final two years suspended.

Aaron Collins (24) swiped the victim with a bottle of beer, making contact with his eye, and later smashed the bottle downwards on the head of the dazed man who had earlier been assaulted by his two co-accused.

Collins, of Elmdale Park, Ballyfermot, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to violent disorder, assault causing harm to Noel O'Rourke  and producing a bottle of Budweiser in the course of a fight on an outbound Luas red line between the Smithfield and Museum stops on December 11, 2014.

Two co-accused Aoife Molloy (24) and Martin O'Connor (25) received partially suspended four-year sentences from Judge James O'Donohue in January last. Molloy had the final 18 months suspended and O'Connor had the final two years suspended.

Molloy's sentence was later reduced to four years with the final two years suspended on appeal, the court heard today.

The victim, Noel O'Rourke (46), had fallen to the ground when the Luas jolted and was kicked by Molloy as he tried to get up. Molloy and O'Connor claimed they “snapped” when their victim then “retaliated”.

The court heard Collins believed his two friends were being assaulted and became involved in the violence in a “misguided act of chivalry.”

Mr O'Rourke suffered a fractured eye socket as well as wounds to his scalp and lip. He was in court for the sentence.

Judge Patricia Ryan said the victim still suffered an “enormous amount of pain”.

“It was a very frightening experience for a person on his own who was faced with three antagonists,” she said.

The court heard Collins has 36 previous convictions, but none for violence. He is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence for a drug offence.

Ann Sheridan BL, defending, said it was Collins' view that his friends had been assaulted. She said that as he had alcohol on board the decision-making process was blurred. She said he did not arm himself but already had the bottle in his hand.

Counsel said she had been instructed to apologise to the victim and that Collins had written a letter of apology. She said Collins did not realise the extent of the assault when he left the Luas.

Ms Sheridan said Collins was effectively homeless at the time and had been drinking on the streets.

Garda Karl Colgan told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, said Mr O'Rourke was a passenger on the Luas on his way home from a night socialising when the tram jolted and he “went flying.” He was trying to get to his feet when he said he got a kick. That was the last thing he remembered.

Gardaí arrived at the scene and the victim was brought to hospital. The floor of the Luas was covered in blood and there was a broken Budweiser bottle on the floor. The scene was examined and CCTV downloaded.

Gda Colgan said that on the CCTV footage Molloy and O'Connor were chatting with the man seated across from them. Collins was further down the tram.

The man slipped when the Luas jolts and was then kicked by Molloy as he tried to get to his feet. When he got back to his feet, the victim then kicked Molloy back.

In the footage, O'Connor grabed the victim and Molloy hit him with a bottle three times until it smashed and then jabbed him with it, stabbing his lip. The footage shows O'Connor hit the victim, who had grabbed Molloy's hair, with a bottle twice to the head before it smashed.

Collins is then seen swiping at the man with a full bottle connecting with his eye. He is then punched a number of times by O'Connor before Collins smashes a full bottle of Budweiser over his head. The trio are then seen leaving the Luas at the Smithfield stop.

The assault on the CCTV footage lasted about one minute to a minute and a half. Collins was nominated as a suspect and arrested.

Gda Colgan agreed with defence counsel that by the time Collins came along the assault had already begun in terms of his co-accused. He agreed that Collins arrived with the bottle of beer, which he seemed to have been drinking from.

Fiona Ferguson