Ex bank worker avoids jail for second time over vicious glass attack

Robert Jones
Robert Jones

A former bank worker spared jail for a night-club glass assault, which permanently blinded a medical student in one eye, has been spared jail for a second time by the Court of Appeal.

Robert Jones (27), of Glenview Park, Tallaght, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to medical student Brian Murphy at Palace Nightclub, Camden Street, in the capital on July 20, 2014.

He was given a wholly suspended 18 month sentence by Judge John Aylmer on February 24, 2016.

The Director of Public Prosecutions sought a review of Jones' sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient” and the Court of Appeal agreed.

However, the three-judge court did not send him to jail on this occasion owing to the delay in bringing the sentence review to hearing and his current personal circumstances.

Giving judgment today, Mr Justice John Hedigan said Jones struck Mr Murphy in the face with a pint glass in the nightclub in the early hours of the morning.

It was disputed whether the victim was acting in an “annoying” manner and making provocative gestures towards Jones. Mr Murphy denied this but two civilian witnesses for the prosecution said there had been prior interaction between the parties.

The glass hit Mr Murphy around his left eye. It resulted in injuries described as “horrific” by the sentencing judge, scarring, permanent loss of vision in his left eye and psychological trauma. He underwent five operations under general anaesthetic and will need at least one more.

Jones remained at the scene and admitted to striking the victim. He answered all questions put to him and expressed remorse several times.

He stated that the injured party “came close, he made the cut (across the throat) gesture again, that's when I instinctively threw my right hand at him. I was completely unaware that I was holding a pint glass at that moment and after, its quite a blur, rush of adrenalin.”

He was 25 at sentencing with no previous convictions. He had a degree in business and was working in a bank at the time. He had €8,000 compensation with him at sentencing.

Counsel for the DPP, Fiona Murphy BL, submitted that there had to be custody for this offence, that there had to be “actual time served”.

She said it was a section 3 assault aggravated by the use of a glass and that the sentencing judge gave too much credit for Jones' guilty plea in circumstances where he was “caught red-handed”.

There was no doubt, Mr Justice Hedigan said, that the events of the night have had consequences that will live with Jones and the victim for the rest of their lives.

Mr Murphy not only suffered the catastrophic loss of vision in one eye, he will go through life with the ever present danger that any injury to his remaining eye will result in complete blindness.

He has however, “pulled his life together admirably” and had resumed his medical studies in Trinity College.

For Jones, the consequences, which impacted upon him largely through the criminal process, have been less devastating, the judge said.

From being a hard working, successful young man who had educated himself to a first class degree, good employment, marriage and the recent birth of a first child, he now found himself at the hazard of a prison sentence.

General deterence arose in that “such egregious violence simply cannot be tolerated in any circumstances” and the courts must deal “severely” with such offences.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the court did not find circumstances that were sufficiently substantial and extraordinary to have justified a wholly suspended sentence. The court was therefore satisfied that the sentence was “unduly lenient”.

He said the Court of Appeal would “certainly have imposed an 18 month sentence to be actually served” if it had been called on to sentence in the Circuit Court.

However, in circumstances where the sentence review had taken 13 months to come to hearing, where Jones would have experienced initial relief followed by the “deflating announcement” that the DPP were seeking a review, the court recognised the significantly greater burden of hardship of having to go into custody now.

In circumstances where time had moved on, where he had not re-offended, was gainfully employed and where there had been a delay, the court found it unnecessary to require him to go into custody.

Mr Justice Hedigan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, recorded the court's view that the sentence was unduly lenient and dismissed the appeal.