A hackney driver gave up his business after being punched several times by a drunk passenger late at night, Clonmel Circuit Court was told at the sentencing hearing of the Cahir man who committed the assault.
Judge Tom Teehan handed down a three and a half years suspended jail sentence to Sean Healy, aged 28, of 42 Beechpark, Cahir and ordered him to pay €20,000 compensation to former hackney driver John Bailey, whom he assaulted at Cullenagh, Ballyporeen in the early hours of March 12 last year.
Gda. Louise Lordan gave evidence that Healy pleaded guilty at the court in July to assaulting and harming Mr Bailey.
She recounted Mr Bailey picked up three people in Cahir around 1.30am on this date. He dropped off one passenger and while he continued driving Sean Healy became very aggressive and started shouting and kicking the back of the drivers' seat.
Mr Bailey stopped the vehicle, got out, opened the door and told Healy to stop. Healy punched him a number of times. Healy said Mr Bailey struck him too. The court heard another passenger got out of the car and intervened to try and stop the incident.
When interviewed by Gda. Tadgh O'Halloran, Healy said he was out socialising that night and drank 10 pints of Heineken in Cahir. He stated that he was only messing and joking when he was hitting Mr Bailey's head rest.
Prosecuting barrister Frank Quirke BL said Mr Bailey suffered bruising to his face and soft tissue injuries to his face, neck and shoulders. He was quite shaken by the incident.
Mr Quirke read Mr Bailey's Victim Impact Statement to the court. Mr Bailey outlined that he operated a hackney service in the Burncourt area for six years and had enjoyed his work. All that changed after this incident. There were tears streaming down his face and he wondered what would have happened if he hadn't got away. His son was very sick at the time. Mr Bailey thought of what would have happened his son if he had been killed on the side of the road that night.
Mr Bailey said he felt very scared in the weeks after the incident and took the decision for his "own peace of mind" to wind up his hackney business.
Defence barrister Edward O'Mahony BL argued that the Victim Impact Statement's references to Mr Bailey being afraid of dying on the side of the road went far beyond what was stated in the Book of Evidence. The prospect of dying on the side of the road couldn't arise from the facts given, he submitted.
Judge Teehan, however, responded that it was his experience that it was very rare for there to be no psychological impact when someone has suffered a beating.
Mr O'Mahony said his client fully accepted he was the aggressor in this incident. He had fully withdrawn his initial allegation that Mr Bailey struck him first. In the days after the assault, his client sent text messages to Mr Bailey stating he was "deeply sorry" and "disgusted" with himself. He also wrote an apology letter to Mr Bailey.
He submitted it was a "one-off" incident and his client wouldn't darken the doors of the court again. He was a boxer in his youth and worked at ABP in Cahir for approximately 11 years and was currently a supervisor in the factory's cold stores. He lived with his partner of four years and they had a three year old child.
The barrister also told the court his client was involved in a road traffic accident last year, which caused him significant psychological distress as borne out by psychologist and Probation Service reports. There was a personal injury legal proceedings being brought to court in relation to this accident.
He presented letters to the court from Healy's partner and a representative of his employer in Cahir.
Mr O'Mahony added that his client was prepared to pay compensation to Mr Bailey but pointed out that his means were limited and he hadn't been in a position to raise any money yet.
Sentencing Healy, Judge Teehan said the outstanding aggravating factor in this case was the traumatic impact this crime had on Mr Bailey, who was so traumatised by this beating that he wound up his hackney business.
Other factors were the huge amount of alcohol Healy consumed that night and the fact the beating was inflicted by a young man in his 20s, who was trained in boxing, on an older man, who was not in as good a position to defend himself.
From his years dealing with assault cases, he reitereated that it was a very rare victim of assault who was not profoundly pyschologically affected by the experience. This incident had been a life changing event for Mr Bailey, he concluded.
The mitigating factors the Judge took into account were Healy's early guilty plea, early apology to the victim, his good employment record, the support he had from his family and his stable family background. He believed Healy had learned a considerable lesson.
Judge Teehan suspended the three and a half years sentence he imposed on condition Healy entered into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and not approach Mr Bailey or any member of his family except at their invitation.
He directed that Healy pay the €20,000 compensation order within two years.