A violent attacker who repeatedly stomped on a pensioner’s head in a brutal, unprovoked 14-minute assault had his 13-year prison sentence reduced by the Court of Appeal on Monday.
Jonathan O’Driscoll (33), formerly of Coolcower House, Macroom, Co. Cork, was jailed after pleading guilty to assault causing grievous harm to Christy O’Callaghan (73) in Sleaveen East, Macroom, on March 21, 2019.
During the prolonged assault Mr O’Callaghan, who has since died, suffered a bilateral scalp laceration, facial bone fractures, extensive soft tissue damage, several broken ribs, a collapsed lung and a subdural hematoma. He then needed life-saving treatment at Cork University Hospital and had to be moved from his home to a long-term care facility following his release following his injuries.
O’Driscoll appealed the severity of the sentence given by Judge Sean O’Donnabhain to 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 lawyer, Siobhan Lankford SC, said the main sentence of 15 years was too high and had been “set at the high end of the higher bracket”.
Reading the court judgment today, Judge Patrick McCarthy said the trial judge had correctly identified 15 years as the main sentence for Mr O’Callaghan’s ‘brutal assault’ in a parking lot in the early hours of the morning.
Judge 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, dragging him from the van and knocking him to the ground.
Judge McCarthy said Mr O’Callaghan tried to run away but O’Driscoll, who was 31 at the time, caught up to him and kicked and punched 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 revealed no mental illness, but referred to the Appellant’s addictions. Judge McCarthy said the assault was “protracted, vicious and unprovoked” and the trial judge was “well justified” in identifying 15 years as the primary sentence.
Judge McCarthy said Mr O’Callaghan had to live in a care home under an ‘extremely restrictive’ routine and needed help with walking and going to the toilet. He said Mr O’Callaghan’s sight was ‘almost gone’ due to the attack and Mr O’Callaghan was ‘very frustrated’ in the care home.
However, Judge McCarthy said the three-judge tribunal would overturn the sentence to facilitate Driscoll’s rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Mr McCarthy said the main sentence would remain as well as the 13-year sentence after mitigation.
However, he said the last two years of the 13-year sentence would be suspended for two years and that O’Driscoll must engage with probation and substance abuse services while in custody and during the suspended portion of the sentence. .
At the appeal hearing, Ms Lankford said her client’s behavior had been inexcusable and he was not “seeking to defend him in any way”. Ms Lankford said her client cooperated with the legal process early on after his arrest.
Although he does not suffer from any “serious psychiatric disorder”, she said he “had a psychiatric history, suffered from anxiety and depression, had attempted suicide and had contact with counsellors” . She said O’Driscoll appeared in court with a signed plea and expressed remorse for his actions.
“Two years [discount] is simply not enough in all circumstances,” she said.
During oral argument, Presiding Judge John Edwards said Mr O’Callaghan’s life had been ruined by the attack.
“It’s easy to apologize once you’ve ruined someone’s life,” Judge said.
Mr Justice Edwards also said the court was saddened to hear that Mr O’Callaghan had since died, adding that his “very poignant” statement about the impact of the victim was on the court record.
In a victim impact statement, Mr O’Callaghan said that before the crime he had led a ‘good 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 hospitalized since and have not returned home. No one will ever know half of what I have suffered.
“You [O’Driscoll] deprived me of my fundamental rights. I can’t go to the toilet by myself. I have to be taken care of by a nurse who is normally a woman, which for me is embarrassing and degrading. I don’t think I will be left home unaccompanied again. It breaks my heart,” Mr O’Callaghan said.