A judge has warned a Cullyhanna man, who armed himself with a wheel brace and sought out his victim, that he could face a prison term when sentenced this Friday.
The son suffered a number of debilitating injuries, including a fractured cheekbone.
The 26-year-old, who initially denied the claims, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of common assault, as well as possession of an offensive weapon in a public place.
While character references from his local GAA club and employer were supplied by the defence, the prosecution solicitor pointed out that she had spoken to the victim’s [the son] family in the courtroom and they asked to covey to the court “the upset caused by the reference in relation to the sporting activity, given the sad situation with [their son] can no longer partake in that very sport; he being an active member receiving accolades throughout his career in that sport. Now, because of this incident and of the injury, he can no longer partake in that.”
His Honour, Judge Gordon Kerr QC, questioned why the charge was not the more serious grievous bodily harm with intent (Section 18).
“This man went and a sought out the complainant as a result of something that he’d heard, deliberately armed himself, and used the weapon he armed himself with to cause, what were undoubtedly, serious injuries to the complainant,” said Judge Kerr.
“He may have had some drink but according to him, he was not drunk at the time, and therefore reasonably in control of his faculties. So, which element of Section 18 is that the prosecution say, was not present in this case?”
A defence barrister for Carragher argued that “from the facts available” his client “did not possess an intention to cause really serious harm” and that there were a “number of triable issues in this case”.
The defence barrister highlighted various points in the [the son’s] statements where he states that two vehicles pulled up on the day in question.
One was a black Citroen Berlingo van, driven by the defendant, Shane Carragher, as well as a white Audi car.
The complainant stated that he was “100% sure one of my attackers was Shane Carragher”.
The defence barrister said: “So, he said that Shane Carragher immediately went for him and he stated, ‘the next thing I knew that has been struck simultaneously by more than one person, sustaining blows to to my back head, right shoulder and legs’. But the one thing he doesn’t say is that he was hit with the iron bar.”
Quoting further from the son’s statement, the defence, said: “‘This person that is Shane Carragher exited the black Citroen Berlingo on the Dundalk Road as my father and I were walking home; he had a wheel brace and squared up to me and proceeded to assault me’ but again no reference that he was actually assaulted with the wheel brace.”
The defence asked the judge to look at the photographs of the injuries sustained, remarking that “there’s nothing in terms of the injuries sustained in this case, or indeed the photographs, that indicates the use of the wheel brace, although it is accepted that he did sustain injuries amounting to grievous bodily harm”.
He also referred to the father’s statement where he says: “‘They had me in the middle of the road; two were punching and kicking at me and I saw that the others who had knocked [my son] over the wall.’
“So there’s two assaults described,” said the defence, quoting again: “‘I got up off the ground and one of the two guys who had been attacking me had a bar. I shouted don’t be using that and put my hand up. I recognised the male as Shane Carragher'”.
The defence added: “[The father’s statement] talks about the van and the car. ‘The three or fours that were in the car pounced on [my son]’ and then he says ‘Shane Carragher came towards me with a bar held as if to strike’. Really, what he says in this statement is that the occupants of the van and the car were involved in two different things.
“He says the van occupants [the defendant] came to him with an iron bar, and that the others pounced on his son. So there’s an issue there in terms of the fact Mr Carragher’s involvement in the most serious attack, which was on the son, and also an issue of whether in fact, the iron bar was actually used as opposed to being carried.”
Judge Kerr then pointed the Probation report which “doesn’t suggest that he has any great degree empathy”.
Carragher’s defence counsel agreed that is was “a bad report”.
Said the defence: “It didn’t surprise me that much when I read the report, because of my limited dealings with Mr Carragher, he is a man of few words. He presents as a somewhat taciturn individual. As I’ve said [he’s] not that loquacious and I don’t think he impressed the probation officer at all in this case.”
In passing his sentencing until Friday, Judge Kerr, said: “This is a case where someone has made a deliberate choice to go and get revenge for something they didn’t witness and he has gone to some lengths to do so.
“And even if I couldn’t be sure beyond the reasonable doubt, they used a weapon, the fact that they armed themselves with one to go to extract revenge puts the case as a minimum at medium culpability and potentially, in the high culpability category.
“The aggravating feature is that this is an offence which was played out in the public street, which is a recognised and significant, aggravating feature for this type offence.”
Judge Kerr concluded: “Your client may prepare himself for a custodial sentence. I’m not saying necessarily I’ve made up my mind but he did best preparing himself for that eventuality.”