Three-month sentence for woman who ‘tore clumps’ from shop worker’s head

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Aoife Smith at court
Aoife Smith at court

A DUBLIN woman, who tore clumps of hair from a shop worker's head during a vicious attack, has been given a three-month suspended sentence.

Mother-of-one, Aoife Smith, 31, of Sarto Park, Bayside, was convicted of assault causing harm to Emma Dixon by Judge Michael Coghlan at Dublin District Court.

The victim had told the trial that she was left bleeding with clumps of hair falling out after the incident at the Bayside Inn in Sutton in north Dublin on the afternoon of June 15, 2013. She had massive bald patches and, two years on, her hair still hasn't fully regrown, she had said.

At the sentence today Judge Coghlan described it as “quite appalling” and he said the pre-sentence probation report on Smith was troubling. She did not show any contrition and did not engage with the Probation Service in relation to the victim, the judge said.

Pleading for leniency, defence solicitor Leonard Leader said his client was an unemployed single mother who had traumatic experiences and used alcohol as a “harmful bandaid”. He said she now understands the ramifications of her actions and that such a loss of control cannot occur again. He said Smith, who was in tears during the sentence hearing, asked him to convey her apologies.

Judge Coghlan imposed a three-month sentence but suspended it on condition Smith, who has no criminal convictions, stays out of trouble and remains under the supervision of the Probation Service for the next two years.

Judge Coghlan had also said the incident was “nothing short of a vicious assault on the victim” and CCTV evidence showed Smith “prowling outside the front of the bar in an aggressive manner”.

The court heard Aoife Smith, who had pleaded not guilty, had been outside the pub with a friend drinking Fat Frog and she started to verbally abuse Emma Dixon when she arrived at the pub with her boyfriend and their dog. 

During the trial in May, the court was told Smith blamed Ms Dixon for being barred from a shop in which she worked.

It took the efforts of two men to release her grip on Ms Dixon's hair which got wrapped around Smith's fingers, Judge Coghlan heard.

Ms Dixon told the court she had tried to ignore Smith's taunting and she went into the pub with her boyfriend. She said Smith entered and told “you got me barred from that bleeding shop”. She said Smith grabbed her by the back of her head and pulled her down.

Ms Dixon said her boyfriend Stephen Murphy tried to stop Smith but he tripped over a dog lead.

“She had me on the ground and would not let got, kept pulling my hair,” Ms Dixon said. She said her boyfriend and bar manager Paul Lynch, who both gave evidence for the prosecution, eventually “unclenched her fingers, it took them a few seconds to do that”.

She told the trial Smith had “twisted her fingers” around her hair. She was in shock, had cuts to her head and “clumps of hair came out”.

She told the court she suffered “massive hair loss”. In the two years since the incident, she said, her hair has “grown half way down, I can still not wear it down, it's still not as thick - hopefully, eventually it will grow back”.

Smith gave evidence and denied being the aggressor and claimed she was attacked first after she had “a bit of banter” with her friend.

She claimed she slipped and Ms Dixon fell on her and her hair had been grabbed too. She said that when Ms Dixon and her partner had first entered the pub she thought they said something to her and she replied “shut up you dope”.

Gda Shane Buckley attended the scene and found that Smith “appeared to be aggressive and intoxicated and slurring her speech”. The case had been adjourned today to allow for the preparation of probation reports on Smith and for a victim impact statement to be furnished to the court.

-Tom Tuite