Teen jailed for one-punch attack on tourist who spent three weeks in coma
Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Stefan Bornac (19) to four and a half years in prison
A young English tourist who suffered serious head injuries in an unprovoked attack during a weekend visit to Dublin has told a court his life will never the same again.
College student Thomas Oliver (25) spent three weeks in an induced coma at Beaumont Hospital after he was knocked unconscious in a one-punch assault in the city centre on April 17 last (2022).
At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday Judge Martin Nolan sentenced Stefan Bornac (19) to four and a half years in prison, with the final nine months suspended.
Bornac had pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Mr Oliver and to assault causing harm to James Lightly, a friend of Mr Oliver’s, on D’Olier Street in Dublin 2.
Judge Nolan said Bornac had displayed “irrational behaviour” and for reasons only known to himself, had launched an unprovoked and unexpected attack, leaving both injured parties with no time to protect themselves or take any evasive action.
Judge Nolan said Bornac had punched Mr Oliver “ferociously” to the head, adding that although he was certain Bornac did not intend to cause the injuries that he did, “when you punch someone as savagely as this man did, there’s always that risk. You do not know what is going to happen.”
He noted that Mr Oliver spent five and a half weeks in hospital and sustained devastating injuries and that a consultant neurosurgeon said he had been “in danger of dying”.
The judge set a headline sentence of six and a half to seven years, but reduced this on account of Bornac’s young age, his previous good character, lack of any record, work history, guilty plea and cooperation with gardaí.
“I can come to the conclusion that Bornac is unlikely to offend to any great degree in the future,” said Judge Nolan.
Mr Oliver’s father attended the sentencing on his son’s behalf and requested that a victim impact statement prepared by his son be read aloud by prosecuting counsel Joe Mulrean BL.
In his statement Mr Oliver said that he and his family and friends would never be able to reconcile the “damage, pain and trauma” caused by the actions of Bornac. He said the attack almost cost him his life and that the long-lasting psychological effects are profound.
Mr Oliver said he felt like “a shell of a human” when he awoke from his induced coma, connected to 15 drip wires and breathing through a respirator, not knowing if he would ever be able to leave the hospital or resume some sort of normal life.
He said his family were told many times that he might not survive the coma, and that if he did, he might have brain damage.
Mr Oliver said “the pain is still very raw” for his family who had to fly from London not knowing if he would be alive when they got there, and for his friends who held his head in their hands while he lay on the ground convulsing and covered in his own vomit.
“The psychological damage will never leave them either,” he said, adding that he did not know how long his own post-traumatic stress disorder would last, or if it would last forever.
Mr Oliver expresssed his thanks to the “brilliance and kindness” of the Irish emergency services, the ICU staff, the neurosurgical teams and the gardaí. He said it was “sheer luck” that he was so quickly attended to by emergency services and that if the attack had happened in London where he lives, he would have been dead.
Mr Oliver has been left with headaches and no sense of smell; his sense of taste was also affected. He lost 50 per cent of his muscle mass and had to relearn how to walk, the court heard.
He also outlined how he missed out on an upcoming promotion at work and now is facing redundancy, and that it cost his family €8,000 to stay in Dublin during his hospitalisation.
Detective Garda Dabhach Dineen said Mr Oliver and Mr Lightly were among a group of seven university friends visiting Dublin for the weekend. The group was walking along Fleet Street in the early hours in high spirits, when there was a slight exchange between Mr Oliver and the occupants of a car stopped at a traffic light.
Bornac, a passenger in the car, got out and walked over to Mr Oliver, punching him with a right-hand swing to the temple with considerable force, the court heard. Bornac then began punching Mr Lightly several times, knocking him to the ground and then kicking him in the head.
Mr Oliver was transferred by ambulance to St James’ Hospital and intubated, then transferred to Beaumont where he was again intubated.
Gardaí examined CCTV and traced the car registration, calling to Bornac’s house in Naas a few hours later. When shown the CCT Bornac apologised and was genuinely remorseful and concerned about the injured party.
Michael Bowman SC, defending, said Bornac was aged 19 at the time and has not come to any adverse attention before or since this offence. The court heard Bornac had a difficult childhood and that his father was an alcoholic.
He himself did not usually drink but had consumed two beers on the night in question, the court heard. Mr Bowman said his client was ashamed and could not offer any logical explanation for what he did.
“He behaved in a manner that was outrageously out of character,” said Mr Bowman. The court heard Bornac worked in a bakery and that his employer was satisfied to keep him in employment despite the impending prosecution.
Bornac had taken out a bank loan of €8,000 and had brought the money to court as a concrete expression of his remorse, the court heard. Letters were presented to court from Bornac’s sister and mother who were present in court and from his employer.
Judge Nolan ordered that the money be handed over to Mr Oliver’s family and told Bornac to be of good behaviour while in custody and for nine months on his release from prison.
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