A man who punched a homeless man in the back of the head in an unprovoked attack, leaving him with ongoing memory loss, has been jailed for three years.
Andrew Byrne left his victim unconscious on the ground in Temple Bar after he came up behind him and punched him in the back of the head before rifling through his pockets and stealing a bottle of vodka.
A female companion of his is believed to have taken the man's disability allowance cash and phone, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
Byrne (35) of no fixed abode in Dublin, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm and theft at Temple Bar, Dublin on September 11th last year. He has 93 previous convictions, including assault and public order offences.
Sentencing Byrne on Tuesday, Judge Melanie Greally said Byrne had caused “horrendous facial injuries” to his victim, whose tongue was split in the middle during the attack. The man suffered facial fractures, a broken jaw and broken teeth as a result of hitting his head on the ground while unconscious, the court heard.
The victim was a homeless and “vulnerable” man who was living in a homeless hostel at the time of the attack.
In a victim impact statement handed into court, the man said he suffers from memory issues, fear and anxiety. He said he has stopped going out alone too far from home and is fearful when anyone comes up behind him.
The court heard Byrne has a history of domestic violence-related offences. The judge noted that at the time of the attack, Byrne had left his family home in Meath following an “episode” with his partner and was effectively living homeless in the city centre.
Garda Dabhach Dineen told Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, that on the day in question, the victim collected his disability allowance and was drinking in Temple Bar. He was sitting on a step when a woman – a companion of Byrne's – approached him and rifled through his pockets.
The victim stood up and was then approached from behind by Byrne, who punched him in the back of the head, causing him to fall unconscious to the ground and hit his face on the pavement. The victim woke up in hospital with no memory of what had happened to him.
Byrne was arrested after gardaí went through local CCTV footage, which captured the entire incident. Byrne was identified by gardaí who recognised him and arrested. He has been in custody since January this year. The woman is still before the courts.
Pieter Le Vert BL, defending, said Byrne had an alcohol addiction issue and was in the throes of substance abuse at the time of the assault. He initially denied carrying out the attack before admitting it to gardaí.
When asked by gardaí if he regretted his actions that night, he replied: “F**king right I do, of course I do. I've deep regret for what I've done.”
Judge Greally said Byrne carried a high level of culpability for his actions that night. She noted he approached his victim “striking him with force when he was vulnerable and taken utterly by surprise”.
She handed down a three-year sentence and backdated it to when Byrne went into custody last January.