Schoolgirls spared criminal records for roles in assault of couple defending gay son

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Homophobia: The gang were the couples' son about being gay before the attack
Homophobia: The gang were the couples' son about being gay before the attack

TWO teenage schoolgirls have been spared criminal records and sentences for their roles in a mini-riot in which a couple were beaten after they defended their gay son from taunting.

Dublin's Children's Court heard the woman was set on in her front garden and had a cigarette stubbed out on her face while her husband was knocked out. The incident happened when about 15 youths were outside their home and one man began making remarks about the couple's son.

Three schoolgirls, aged 16 and 17, have been found guilty of committing a violent disorder. They had no prior criminal convictions but were drunk on alcopops and vodka.

Judge John O'Connor had ordered two of them to write letters of apology and he said their parents had to be involved and they needed to address the issue of the alcohol they drank “and the torture they put this family through”.

The court heard they got involved when another girl put out a cigarette on the woman's face.

Today, the two girls' letters were handed over after defence counsel Damian McKeone read them into the court record. In the letters, both expressed remorse and admitted they had been drunk and assured the victims they were not anti-gay.

One girl wrote: “I have talked with my parents on the dangers of under-age consumption of alcohol and this combined with gang mentality that led to the situation that arose that night. No family should have to go through what you did.”

The second girl also said she had been drinking with people she did not know. “I was only thinking of myself and having a good time. The event later that night made me realise how quickly a situation can turn into a nightmare not only for me but for innocent people as well.”

She said she was sorry and “I understand it might not be enough but I truly mean it”.

Judge O'Connor told them and their parents that he noted they had not been responsible for the taunting of the couple's son and they were not homophobic. However, he said they got involved in situation that developed into a riot outside the victims' home.

He was satisfied it was out of character and they would not appear before the courts again and he said pro-longing the case would add to their trauma as well as that of the couple.

The letters were handed over to a garda who will pass them on to the couple. Judge O'Connor marked the facts proved and struck out the girls' cases, meaning they have been spared criminal records as well as custodial sentences. Both girl thanked the judge as they left court.

Meanwhile the third girl is to face sentencing in April.

Judge O'Connor heard the man and woman's son had gone out of their home to walk a younger sibling back from a bus stop. Someone had been throwing stones at their house and there was a group of teenage boys outside.

The woman said “I could see they were very angry”. Her son was taunted about being gay. She went out and calmly told them, “we know he is gay, it is not a problem”. “Three girls came running at me, screaming, shouting 'who the eff do you think you are?',” the woman said.

She said the girl, who is still awaiting sentencing, had a cigarette and “went for my eye but it hit just under my eye.” She claimed the girl picked up a bottle and she feared she would be hit in the face. She said to defend herself she grabbed that girl by her hair and pulled her down. She explained that she did this in case the two other girls “went to go on me, they would have to go on her as well”.

She then felt punches and kicks and her hair was being pulled. Afterwards she noticed she had been left with bald patches. Her husband was knocked to the ground by a youth who was “punching him and kicking him on the head.”

Her husband told the court he came out and saw his wife being punched and kicked by two girls and another girl “had a hold of her hair”.

He tried to pull them off his wife but was attacked by the boys who were still outside his house. “I came to next to my garden, next to my car,” he had said adding that his car was also smashed up.

A neighbour of the couple called the guards after he saw the incident escalate. He said the couple were verbally abused and he saw one girl approach the woman and “put a cigarette out in her face”. One of the girls had drank eight bottles of an alcopop as well as a naggin of vodka and the other two admitted they had a lot to drink.

Another male is also before the courts facing separate proceedings in connection with the incident.