Appeal court reduces sentence of Macroom man who repeatedly stamped on pensioner's head in 'brutal' attack

Jonathan O’Driscoll appealed the severity of the sentence imposed by Judge Sean O’Donnabhain at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in February 2021 on the grounds that it was “excessive in all circumstances”.
Appeal court reduces sentence of Macroom man who repeatedly stamped on pensioner's head in 'brutal' attack

Jonathan O'Driscoll has had the final two years of the 13 years' imprisonment suspended for two years. File picture

A violent attacker who repeatedly stamped on a pensioner’s head during a brutal and unprovoked assault lasting 14 minutes had his 13-year jail term reduced by the Court of Appeal on Monday.

Jonathan O’Driscoll (33), formerly of Coolcower House, Macroom, Co. Cork, was jailed after he pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Christy O’Callaghan (73) at Sleaveen East, Macroom, on March 21, 2019.

During the prolonged assault, Mr O’Callaghan, who has since passed away, suffered a bilateral scalp laceration, fractures to his facial bones, extensive soft tissue damage, several broken ribs, a collapsed lung and subdural haematoma. He later required life-saving treatment at Cork University Hospital and had to be moved from his home to a long-term care facility after his release as a result of his injuries.

O’Driscoll appealed the severity of the sentence imposed by Judge Sean O’Donnabhain at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in February 2021 on the grounds that it was “excessive in all circumstances”. At the Court of Appeal, O’Driscoll’s barrister, Siobhan Lankford SC, said the headline sentence of 15 years was too high and had been “fixed at the higher end of the highest bracket”.

Reading out the court's judgement today, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said that the trial judge correctly identified 15 years as the headline sentence for the "vicious assault" of Mr O'Callaghan at a car park in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Justice McCarthy said O'Driscoll approached Mr O'Callaghan, who was sitting in a parked van, before checking the doors of 20 other parked vehicles. O'Driscoll then returned to attack Mr O'Callaghan, pulling him from the van and throwing him to the ground.

Mr Justice McCarthy said Mr O'Callaghan tried to get away but O'Driscoll, who was 31 at the time, caught up to him and kicked and stamped on Mr O'Callaghan around the face and torso. He stole Mr O'Callaghan's watch, jacket and wallet during the 14-minute attack, which was caught on CCTV.

Psychological reports did not reveal any mental illness but referenced the addictions of the appellant. Mr Justice McCarthy said the assault was "prolonged, vicious and unprovoked" and that the trial judge was "well justified" in identifying 15 years as the headline sentence.

Mr Justice McCarthy said that Mr O'Callaghan had to live in a care home on an "extremely restrictive" routine and required assistance in walking and going to the bathroom. He said that Mr O'Callaghan's sight had been "almost gone" due to the attack and that Mr O'Callaghan was "very frustrated" in the care home.

Christy O'Callaghan, who has since passed away, had said in his victim impact statement: "You [O’Driscoll] took away my basic human rights." File picture: Brian Lougheed
Christy O'Callaghan, who has since passed away, had said in his victim impact statement: "You [O’Driscoll] took away my basic human rights." File picture: Brian Lougheed

However, Mr Justice McCarthy said the three-judge court would quash the sentence to facilitate Driscoll's rehabilitation and re-introduction to society. Mr McCarthy said that the headline sentence would remain and as would the 13-year post-mitigation sentence.

However, he said that the final two years of the 13 years' imprisonment would be suspended for two years and that O'Driscoll was to engage with the probation and addiction services while in jail and during the suspended part of the sentence.

Appeal 

At the appeal hearing, Ms Lankford said her client’s behaviour had been inexcusable and that he wasn’t seeking “to defend it in any way”. Ms Lankford said her client had co-operated with the legal process from the outset after his arrest.

Although he does not suffer from any “gross psychiatric disorder”, she said he “does have a psychiatric history, suffers from anxiety and depression, has had suicide attempts and has had contact with counsellors”. She said O’Driscoll came before the court on a signed plea and had expressed his remorse for his actions.

“Two years [discount] is simply not sufficient in all the circumstances,” she said.

During submissions, Mr Justice John Edwards, presiding, said Mr O’Callaghan’s life had been ruined by the attack.

“It is easy to say sorry once you have wrecked someone’s life,” the judge said.

Mr Justice Edwards also said the court was saddened to hear Mr O’Callaghan has since passed away, adding that his “very poignant” victim impact statement was on the court record.

Victim impact statement 

In a victim impact statement Mr O’Callaghan said that prior to the crime he led a “nice life”. “I enjoyed working with greyhounds and attended the greyhound track twice a week. I had made a lot of good friends through the dogs.

"Since I was so badly assaulted my life has totally changed. I have been in hospital since and I have not been home. Nobody will ever know half of what I suffered.

"You [O’Driscoll] took away my basic human rights. I cannot go to the toilet on my own. I have to be taken by a nurse who is normally female, which to me is embarrassing and degrading. I do not think I will be left home unaccompanied again. This breaks my heart," said Mr O'Callaghan.

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