Man who stabbed stranger in head and "destroyed his life" sentenced to seven and a half years
A 29-year-old man who stabbed a stranger in the head and "destroyed his life" by leaving him with a "horrific" brain injury and a lifelong disability, has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the knife penetrated up to the hilt and travelled across the victim's brain to the other side of his skull, leaving the tip of the weapon inside.
Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said that the attack was a "shocking and horrific act", which had devastating consequences for the victim Eoin Casey and left him with an "appalling life-threatening injury". The judge said that the knife blow was "violent and vicious behaviour".
Referring to the victim's recovery, the judge described it as "arduous and requires an enormous amount of resilience"." It is a daily struggle and his enjoyment of life has been compromised," he added.
Mr Justice McDermott highlighted that offences involving the use of knives need to be discouraged.
In a letter of apology to the victim, defendant Thomas Power said he did not expect his apology to be accepted by Mr Casey but said what he had done was "utterly inexcusable".
Power of Alderwood Avenue, Caherdavin in Limerick pleaded guilty last November to assaulting Mr Casey (25), causing him serious harm in the early hours of August 20, 2018 at Woodbine Avenue in Caherdavin.
Power had also pleaded guilty to assaulting Aaron Grant, causing him harm, on the same occasion.
Before delivering the sentence today, Mr Justice McDermott said Mr Casey had been returning home to his brother's house on the night as he was working in a "responsible position in steel fabrication" at the time. "He had a good social life and circle of friends and was living life to the full," he added.
The two groups of men had been out celebrating separately that day after Limerick's victory in the 2018 All-Ireland hurling final. Both groups encountered each other through a "chance meeting" when their "paths crossed" in the Caherdavin area of Limerick city as they made their way home for the night and there was "no history between them".
There was an exchange of words between the two groups, which led to a scuffle between Power and Mr Casey. Power "received a blow" from Mr Casey, which was not of a significant nature but caused him to stumble and fall. The defendant quickly left to retrieve a knife from his pregnant girlfriend's house, which was less than 200 metres away, before returning to Woodbine Avenue to attack the two men.
Power stabbed Mr Casey once in the head with the knife, which penetrated his skull and travelled internally across his brain to the other side of his skull. The judge called it a "shocking and horrific act", which he said had devastating consequences.
Mr Casey spent two weeks on a ventilator and five months in a rehabilitation centre in Dun Laoghaire in Dublin and has been receiving "ongoing" medical treatment since the incident. The judge said Mr Casey has not been able to re-engage in sport, suffers epileptic fits, and has difficulty finding and retrieving the appropriate words, which created difficulty in his communication. He also has dyspraxia of speech and his reading and writing skills are affected.
Mr Justice McDermott said the victim's recovery is "arduous" and "enormous amounts of resilience are required". "It is a daily struggle and his enjoyment of life and ambitions for the future have been compromised and he now depends on others," said the judge. Making progress in "small normal tasks" is enormously difficult for him and his prospects have diminished significantly, he continued.
Responsibility for Mr Casey's care is now shared between his parents and brother, who have "selflessly" supported him in his recovery, said the judge. "This involves huge commitment to him and enormous efforts on their part," he indicated, adding that it is understandable how Mr Casey is frustrated at times and anxious for the future.
Referring to the emotional victim impact statement given by the brother of Mr Casey, Martin Casey, Mr Justice McDermott said he had "eloquently and movingly" described his brother's suffering and "catastrophic injuries". "He states the accused took away his brother's ability to work and stole his sense of purpose in life," he said.
Martin Casey said in his victim impact statement that he will never be able to erase the image of his brother from his mind and he never knew a human's head could swell so much and be so disfigured. "We know a part of him died that night and it would never be like it used to be. He will never tie his own laces again or text a girl, never be able to remember his mobile number, simple everyday things we think nothing of. Eoin needs help with simple, everyday things now," he said.
The judge said that Power also attacked Mr Grant, who is also greatly affected by the assault on him. The court heard the second victim suffered concussion at the scene and now experiences difficulties in his daily life.
Having regard to the gravity of the offence, Mr Justice McDermott said there were a number of significant aggravating circumstances in the case including that Power deliberately went home after the scuffle and obtained a knife, which he said was deliberately done to avenge the assault on him. "He fully intended to use the knife and had done so," he added.
Furthermore, the judge said stabbing someone in the head with a knife of such length was a further aggravating factor. "The nature of the blow struck on Mr Casey was violent and vicious behaviour which had penetrable capacity and went in up to the hilt," he continued.
The judge also pointed out that Power had attacked and stabbed the two young men without any hesitation and did not obtain help for them, which was another aggravating factor. "The decision was taken deliberately and executed with purpose," he continued. Also, Power had disposed of the evidence by throwing the knife into a domestic bin and it was never found.
The court heard that the main mitigating factors were Power's early guilty pleas on the two counts and his sincere remorse and regret for the damage inflicted. "He has destroyed a man's life and undermined his normal enjoyment of things," said the judge.
Power has six previous convictions, which are mainly public order matters and he has one minor conviction for possession of cannabis.
Mr Justice McDermott said his alcohol and drug use was a long-standing issue and clearly a factor on the night.
Power was sentenced to nine years in prison with the last 18 months suspended for assault causing serious harm and two years for assault causing harm. The man’s sentences are to run concurrently and were backdated to January 20, 2021.
Prosecution counsel Conor Devally SC said the State wished to enter a "nolle prosequi" - a decision not to proceed with the case - on a charge of attempted murder.
At Power's sentence hearing last Thursday, two victim impact statements were read to the court by prosecuting counsel Conor Devally SC.
In an emotional victim impact statement, the brother of Mr Casey, Martin Casey, said it has been two-and-a-half years since Eoin was stabbed in the head and everyday he wakes up wishing it was a "terrible nightmare". He said his brother was given a 50/50 chance of staying alive at the time and all they could do as a family "was hold each other and cry".
"I will never be able to erase the image of Eoin. I never knew a human's head could swell so much and be so disfigured. We know a part of him died that night and it would never be like it used to be. He will never tie his own laces again or text a girl, never be able to remember his mobile number, simple everyday things we think nothing of. Eoin needs help with simple, everyday things now," he said.
Martin Casey said there have been "more bad days than good with Eoin" and when he has a good day then the family has a good day. "Caring for someone with a brain injury is a full time job. I wish I could see bright things ahead," he said.
He said his brother was stabbed 500 metres from their home and that whilst Power had not taken Eoin's life, he had taken his brother's livelihood. "He has taken his ability to work and his purpose in life. He has given our family a life sentence of fear and taken away all of our freedom," he said.
Mr Devally read a second victim impact statement from Mr Grant who was also stabbed twice on the night in the back and shoulder. Mr Grant said: "What should have been an enjoyable night turned into a nightmare. I have never seen so much blood. I kept telling Eoin that he would be ok but I could hardly get the words out. I felt helpless and vulnerable and what I saw that night will live with me forever. Since that night my life has changed drastically. I've become very uncomfortable with groups of people. The trauma of that night will live with me forever."
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