DCSIMG

Jail for men who assaulted Longford man

Carrick-on-Shannon Courthouse, where the case was heard.

Carrick-on-Shannon Courthouse, where the case was heard.

 

There were emotional scenes in Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court last Friday as two young Boyle men were sentenced to jail for their part in a “horrific assault” in the county town in December 2011, which left a Co Longford father of four fighting for his life.

Joseph Kilcullen, Carrownadargney, Geevagh, Boyle, Co Sligo, and Gerard Shannon, 26 Ashfield, Great Meadow, Boyle, had both pleaded guilty to a Section 4 assault causing serious harm to Longford man Mark O’Shea at Townspark, Carrick-on-Shannon on December 18, 2011, at a previous sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court.

In a four-hour sentencing hearing last Friday, the court heard harrowing details of the attack on then 40-year-old Mark O’Shea during a night out in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Sgt Brian Lee detailed how Mr O’Shea had been attending a Christmas party at a former workplace with his wife Virginia, his brother James and his wife on December 17, 2011.

The night had also been one of celebration for the accused as they had come to Carrick-on-Shannon to mark the 18th birthday of Mr Kilcullen, on December 16.

The garda described how Mr O’Shea had travelled with over 20 others to Carrick-on-Shannon on a bus arriving in the town around 8pm for a Christmas party. He said the victim had enjoyed a night out on a Moon River cruise, even splitting his pants while dancing at one stage, something which necessitated a visit to Tesco for a replacement pair of jeans following the docking of the boat some hours later.

Following Moon River, the party moved to Murtagh’s Bar and at 3am they began heading back to the bus stop area of the town near the Landmark Hotel for the journey home.

Sgt Lee said that Mr O’Shea’s brother and his wife had been walking a short distance ahead of him and Virginia as they made their way down Main St and Bridge Street to the bus.

As James passed the bus stop near Cryan’s Hotel he encountered a group of young men and as he passed he was “given a shoulder” to the front. He stumbled and ended up on the ground, according to some witnesses, but continued on past the group.

“Witnesses said that this group of young men were looking for trouble, for a fight and a lot (of witnesses interviewed after the incident) identified a man in a white shirt as someone looking for trouble,” noted Sgt Lee.

James spoke to Mark about the incident and Mark saw two young men coming towards him abusing himself and his brother at around 3.10am.

“Mark stepped up, he was concerned for his wife who was following him and these men came towards him in a threatening manner. As they neared Mark, he hit out and hit one in the face (Mr Kilcullen),” said Sgt Lee although he clarified this was not considered to be a hard punch and added that it appeared to be in self defence.

“Joseph Kilcullen then hit out and hit Mark O’Shea a very hard blow to the head. Mark fell back with force onto the roadway. When his head hit the road there was a noise, heard by many of the witnesses. It was a horrifying noise and people in the surrounding area became very concerned,” he observed.

Although Mark lay motionless on the road, Mr Kilcullen then approached the prone man and gave him a number of “hard and fast punches to the head area”.

A third intervened and pulled Mr Kilcullen off the victim. However, as he did so, Mr Shannon, who was wearing a white shirt, approached the motionless Mr O’Shea and delivered a kick to his head.

While some witnesses detailed a number of kicks, one witness, who had a bird’s eye view of proceedings from a room in Cryan’s Hotel, identified just a single kick.

Immediately afterwards, the two accused accompanied by a third man, left the scene, making their way up Bridge Street and into Flynn’s Take-away, where they met up with other friends.

Members of the public, concerned about the incident, followed the accused as they made their way away from the scene, this later proved instrumental in identifying those responsible, said Sgt Lee.

Witnesses at the scene of the assault immediately called emergency services with three 999 calls recorded in a 22 second period.

An off-duty doctor and nurse, out for the night, administered initial emergency aid, attempting to revive Mr O’Shea who, at this stage, had a pool of blood underneath him from a wound to the back of his head and blood coming from his right ear.

Two minutes after the assault at 3.11am, a routine garda patrol came on the scene. Sgt Lee said that although there had been very icy conditions that night witnesses maintained that Mr O’Shea had been knocked by the force of the initial blow and he added that attending gardaí had noted there was no ice on the roadway which could have caused Mr O’Shea to fall and strike his head.

Sgt Lee said, “It was a very traumatic scene. It was chaotic”, adding that further help was required from a NowDoc doctor on call and the paramedics who arrived 15 minutes later, to stabilise the comatose Mr O’Shea, before transporting him to Sligo Regional Hospital.

Sgt Lee said that during this time, Mr Kilcullen became concerned about the man he had struck and was seen on CCTV making his way back down to the scene of the assault. He stayed for a short period before returning to the takeaway in a “distressed state”.

Mr Kilcullen then returned to the scene of the assault with Mr Shannon and a third man and observed what was happening before again returning to the chipper.

“At this point it is clear that Mr Kilcullen is very remorseful and nervous,” said Sgt Lee and some witnesses detail seeing him crying in the takeaway.

Mr O’Shea’s injuries were so severe that he was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for emergency treatment on the same date.

A CT scan showed a “severe and traumatic brain injury” including a fracture at the base of his skull and significant swelling of his brain. Mr O’Shea was admitted to the Neurology Intensive Care Unit and underwent a number of operations including the insertion of a shunt to drain fluid. Mr O’Shea’s family were called in on at least three separate occasions to say ‘goodbye’ to him as his condition deteriorated.

He remained in a coma and was discharged to Sligo Regional Hospital on February 1, 2012, where he started to reagin conscious in mid March 2012, and he remained in Sligo Hospital until April 11, 2012.

He had to undergo extensive rehabilitation, including occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy and physiological supports and had made an incredible recovery. However, Sgt Lee noted that it was clear he had suffered permanent impairments as a result of the assault.

“He has less than 2% hearing in his right ear and is not the same person he was before the assault. His memory and his concentration has been very much affected,” noted Sgt Lee.

“My understanding is that he doesn’t have the capacity now to maintain employment and this has had a significant impact on his life and that of his family.

Gardaí carried out a comprehensive investigation, interviewing nearly 200 people and taking witness statements from 150 of these.

“The first breakthrough came on Sunday, December 18, after lunch when Joe Kilcullen made contact with the garda station in Carrick-on-Shannon through a friend. It was obvious that he realised the seriousness of the incident and he later presented himself by arrangement at the garda station,” said Sgt Lee.

During an interview he admitted punching Mr O’Shea when on the ground but he initially denied his role in how the victim ended up on the ground, suggesting he may have slipped and fell.

During the interview Mr Kilcullen broke down and said “I’m truly sorry for my actions, it was a cowardly act”.

Further interviews of Mr Kilcullen in March 2012 led to an admission that he must have struck the blow which knocked Mr O’Shea to the ground.

Sgt Lee said that Mr Kilcullen was from the earliest point, very remorseful for his actions and added that he had co-operated fully with the investigation, pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Speaking of the second accused, Mr Shannon, Sgt Lee said that gardaí contacted him and he came into the garda station by appointment, accompanied by his family on Monday, December 19.

In the interview Mr Shannon, then just 17, made “absolutely no admissions” of involvement in assault.

He was further arrested and detained for questioning in March 2012 for an extended period.

“He made no comment to incriminating evidence put to him and he made no admissions,” noted Sgt Lee, but was later charged with the assault.

Mr O’Shea was in court for not just the sentencing but also to read a victim impact statement. He described how he had gone from a hard-working man with a job in Boyle Sports, interested in sport, in karate, GAA, soccer, fishing and shooting, and a proud father of three biological children and one foster child, to a “completely different person” as a result of the assault.

“I don’t remember a lot about the incident or the aftermath,” he admitted.

“I vaguely remember my head hitting the ground. I get flashes of it now and again. Of being on the ground, a fist hitting my face,” he said.

He had no recollection of the next two months but said his family told him they were advised in Sligo Regional Hospital to ‘say goodbye’, and on Christmas Day and again in the New Year, they were told he wouldn’t make it.

“The next time I remember opening my eyes I was in Sligo General Hospital. I remember when I woke up being very weak and wondering why I was there. I was slow in my speech and in a lot of pain. I couldn’t get out of bed to walk, and I was very thin, only seven stone,” he added.

There were emotional scenes in Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court last Friday as two young Boyle men were sentenced to jail for their part in a “horrific assault” in the county town in December 2011, which left a Co Longford father of four fighting for his life.

Joseph Kilcullen, Carrownadargney, Geevagh, Boyle, Co Sligo, and Gerard Shannon, 26 Ashfield, Great Meadow, Boyle, had both pleaded guilty to a Section 4 assault causing serious harm to Longford man Mark O’Shea at Townspark, Carrick-on-Shannon on December 18, 2011, at a previous sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon Circuit Court.

In a four-hour sentencing hearing last Friday, the court heard harrowing details of the attack on then 40-year-old Mark O’Shea during a night out in Carrick-on-Shannon.

Sgt Brian Lee detailed how Mr O’Shea had been attending a Christmas party at a former workplace with his wife Virginia, his brother James and his wife on December 17, 2011.

The night had also been one of celebration for the accused as they had come to Carrick-on-Shannon to mark the 18th birthday of Mr Kilcullen, on December 16.

The garda described how Mr O’Shea had travelled with over 20 others to Carrick-on-Shannon on a bus arriving in the town around 8pm for a Christmas party. He said the victim had enjoyed a night out on a Moon River cruise, even splitting his pants while dancing at one stage, something which necessitated a visit to Tesco for a replacement pair of jeans following the docking of the boat some hours later.

Following Moon River, the party moved to Murtagh’s Bar and at 3am they began heading back to the bus stop area of the town near the Landmark Hotel for the journey home.

Sgt Lee said that Mr O’Shea’s brother and his wife had been walking a short distance ahead of him and Virginia as they made their way down Main St and Bridge Street to the bus.

As James passed the bus stop near Cryan’s Hotel he encountered a group of young men and as he passed he was “given a shoulder” to the front. He stumbled and ended up on the ground, according to some witnesses, but continued on past the group.

“Witnesses said that this group of young men were looking for trouble, for a fight and a lot (of witnesses interviewed after the incident) identified a man in a white shirt as someone looking for trouble,” noted Sgt Lee.

James spoke to Mark about the incident and Mark saw two young men coming towards him abusing himself and his brother at around 3.10am.

“Mark stepped up, he was concerned for his wife who was following him and these men came towards him in a threatening manner. As they neared Mark, he hit out and hit one in the face (Mr Kilcullen),” said Sgt Lee although he clarified this was not considered to be a hard punch and added that it appeared to be in self defence.

“Joseph Kilcullen then hit out and hit Mark O’Shea a very hard blow to the head. Mark fell back with force onto the roadway. When his head hit the road there was a noise, heard by many of the witnesses. It was a horrifying noise and people in the surrounding area became very concerned,” he observed.

Although Mark lay motionless on the road, Mr Kilcullen then approached the prone man and gave him a number of “hard and fast punches to the head area”.

A third intervened and pulled Mr Kilcullen off the victim. However, as he did so, Mr Shannon, who was wearing a white shirt, approached the motionless Mr O’Shea and delivered a kick to his head.

While some witnesses detailed a number of kicks, one witness, who had a bird’s eye view of proceedings from a room in Cryan’s Hotel, identified just a single kick.

Immediately afterwards, the two accused accompanied by a third man, left the scene, making their way up Bridge Street and into Flynn’s Take-away, where they met up with other friends.

Members of the public, concerned about the incident, followed the accused as they made their way away from the scene, this later proved instrumental in identifying those responsible, said Sgt Lee.

Witnesses at the scene of the assault immediately called emergency services with three 999 calls recorded in a 22 second period.

An off-duty doctor and nurse, out for the night, administered initial emergency aid, attempting to revive Mr O’Shea who, at this stage, had a pool of blood underneath him from a wound to the back of his head and blood coming from his right ear.

Two minutes after the assault at 3.11am, a routine garda patrol came on the scene. Sgt Lee said that although there had been very icy conditions that night witnesses maintained that Mr O’Shea had been knocked by the force of the initial blow and he added that attending gardaí had noted there was no ice on the roadway which could have caused Mr O’Shea to fall and strike his head.

Sgt Lee said, “It was a very traumatic scene. It was chaotic”, adding that further help was required from a NowDoc doctor on call and the paramedics who arrived 15 minutes later, to stabilise the comatose Mr O’Shea, before transporting him to Sligo Regional Hospital.

Sgt Lee said that during this time, Mr Kilcullen became concerned about the man he had struck and was seen on CCTV making his way back down to the scene of the assault. He stayed for a short period before returning to the takeaway in a “distressed state”.

Mr Kilcullen then returned to the scene of the assault with Mr Shannon and a third man and observed what was happening before again returning to the chipper.

“At this point it is clear that Mr Kilcullen is very remorseful and nervous,” said Sgt Lee and some witnesses detail seeing him crying in the takeaway.

Mr O’Shea’s injuries were so severe that he was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for emergency treatment on the same date.

A CT scan showed a “severe and traumatic brain injury” including a fracture at the base of his skull and significant swelling of his brain. Mr O’Shea was admitted to the Neurology Intensive Care Unit and underwent a number of operations including the insertion of a shunt to drain fluid. Mr O’Shea’s family were called in on at least three separate occasions to say ‘goodbye’ to him as his condition deteriorated.

He remained in a coma and was discharged to Sligo Regional Hospital on February 1, 2012, where he started to reagin conscious in mid March 2012, and he remained in Sligo Hospital until April 11, 2012.

He had to undergo extensive rehabilitation, including occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy and physiological supports and had made an incredible recovery. However, Sgt Lee noted that it was clear he had suffered permanent impairments as a result of the assault.

“He has less than 2% hearing in his right ear and is not the same person he was before the assault. His memory and his concentration has been very much affected,” noted Sgt Lee.

“My understanding is that he doesn’t have the capacity now to maintain employment and this has had a significant impact on his life and that of his family.

Gardaí carried out a comprehensive investigation, interviewing nearly 200 people and taking witness statements from 150 of these.

“The first breakthrough came on Sunday, December 18, after lunch when Joe Kilcullen made contact with the garda station in Carrick-on-Shannon through a friend. It was obvious that he realised the seriousness of the incident and he later presented himself by arrangement at the garda station,” said Sgt Lee.

During an interview he admitted punching Mr O’Shea when on the ground but he initially denied his role in how the victim ended up on the ground, suggesting he may have slipped and fell.

During the interview Mr Kilcullen broke down and said “I’m truly sorry for my actions, it was a cowardly act”.

Further interviews of Mr Kilcullen in March 2012 led to an admission that he must have struck the blow which knocked Mr O’Shea to the ground.

Sgt Lee said that Mr Kilcullen was from the earliest point, very remorseful for his actions and added that he had co-operated fully with the investigation, pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity.

Speaking of the second accused, Mr Shannon, Sgt Lee said that gardaí contacted him and he came into the garda station by appointment, accompanied by his family on Monday, December 19.

In the interview Mr Shannon, then just 17, made “absolutely no admissions” of involvement in assault.

He was further arrested and detained for questioning in March 2012 for an extended period.

“He made no comment to incriminating evidence put to him and he made no admissions,” noted Sgt Lee, but was later charged with the assault.

Mr O’Shea was in court for not just the sentencing but also to read a victim impact statement. He described how he had gone from a hard-working man with a job in Boyle Sports, interested in sport, in karate, GAA, soccer, fishing and shooting, and a proud father of three biological children and one foster child, to a “completely different person” as a result of the assault.

“I don’t remember a lot about the incident or the aftermath,” he admitted.

“I vaguely remember my head hitting the ground. I get flashes of it now and again. Of being on the ground, a fist hitting my face,” he said.

He had no recollection of the next two months but said his family told him they were advised in Sligo Regional Hospital to ‘say goodbye’, and on Christmas Day and again in the New Year, they were told he wouldn’t make it.

“The next time I remember opening my eyes I was in Sligo General Hospital. I remember when I woke up being very weak and wondering why I was there. I was slow in my speech and in a lot of pain. I couldn’t get out of bed to walk, and I was very thin, only seven stone,” he added.

He told of his embarrassment and frustration at having to wear adult nappies as he was too weak to go to the toilet and how he was upset by his inability to communicate.

He began making slow progress from April onwards but still found himself very dependent on family, noting “they made a lot of sacrifices for me”.

Extensive rehabilitation followed, but he was told he would not regain the hearing in his right ear and his life had “completely changed”.

“Up until recently I had to give up driving, but I passed my driving test a few weeks ago,” he said.

“My concentration, my patience and my temperament have changed immeasurably. I have a short temper and I get very frustrated,” he admitted.

Mr O’Shea detailed getting headaches “ten times worse than a migraine” and said he was now on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets, amongst other medication.

“Now I go to bed at 10.30pm and am in bed until 11am the next morning,” he said.

His short-term and long-term memory are affected and he now faces a reality where he will probably never work again and he certainly won’t be able to play sports like he used to.

“I have up and down days which are tough on my wife, my family. Sometimes I become so angry I want to get up and do this to those who did this to me but I could never destroy somebody’s life the way they have destroyed mine,” he admitted.

“I have to accept the fact that now I will never be the person I once was.”

He said that his wife, children and extended family had been traumatised and his wife checks him regularly during the night to ensure he’s breathing, while his 11-year-old daughter sleeps in the same room as he and his wife because she’s afraid for him.

His 17-year-old has been left very angry about the incident and he felt his parents had never really recovered from the shock.

Speaking in defence of Mr Kilcullen, his senior counsel, John Peart, said that his client came from a difficult background and had ADHD.

Mr Peart said that the head injury sustained by Mr O’Shea had come, not from the blow, but from his head hitting the ground. He also noted that his client was very remorseful and had not intended to cause the injuries sustained by the defendant.

He said Mr Kilcullen had apologised for his behaviour just hours after the incident and wished to again apologise unreservedly to Mr O’Shea and his family.

References were handed in noting Mr Kilcullen’s good character and efforts he had made to rehabilitate himself since the incident.

“The accused feels shamed by what has occurred. His background is not the easiest and I ask the court to take into account the fact he has never come to the notice of gardaí before,” said Mr Peart.

He stressed Mr Kilcullen had pleaded at the first opportunity and said that he was just 18 at the time of the assault and had been working to rehabilitate himself, including pursuing further education.

Mr Shannon’s Senior Counsel, Mary Rose Gearty, directed by Maura McNally, said her client also had ADHD but came from a good family. She said that he had issues with alcohol where he blacked out when drinking and noted that Mr Shannon “didn’t remember” what happened on the night in question.

Mr Shannon took the stand to apologise to Mr O’Shea. “From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” he said.

The accused apologised to the gardaí and to the medical services who had been called to the scene, and he offered an apology to Mr O’Shea’s family for what they’ve gone through since.

Judge John O’Hagan described the case as “very tragic,” asking “what are we to do with our young people today? What’s going to stop these young people from deciding they rule the world and from deciding to take on innocent individuals as they walk down the footpath? One certainly doesn’t give them sweets,” he observed.

“Both Mr O’Shea and his party and these two young men and their group had gone out that night for a good night out. However, the events that happened between 2am and 3am (on December 18) changed these lives forever, he said.

He noted that Mr Shannon, who had been wearing a white shirt on the night, had been “gunning for some type of an altercation.”

“They (the accused) surrounded Mr O’Shea and he clearly received a punch or a blow which knocked him unconscious and he fell like a sack of potatoes and banged his head in a frightening way on the road,” said Judge O’Hagan.

“That was not enough. Mr Kilcullen then went up and proceeded to hit Mr O’Shea in the area of his face. There was no doubt that Mark O’Shea was seriously injured at the time. If anyone had cop-on to look they would have seen the pool of blood coming from his head. Mr Shannon then proceeded to go in and kick Mr O’Shea on the ground. They then turned and walked away and met up with friends to go to a chipper.

“Mr O’Shea was within a whisker of his life. It is only thanks to the emergency services and those present (like the off duty doctor and nurse) that he was stabilised and taken to Sligo Regional Hospital.”

Judge O’Hagan praised the intervention of a third young man who had been in the company of the two accused and had contacted the gardaí within hours of the assault, providing information on Mr Kilcullen and Mr Shannon.

He also paid tribute to the gardaí for “leaving no stone unturned in this investigation,” and to the members of the public who came forward to assist. In particular, he paid tribute to those who sought help for Mr O’ Shea and to those who followed the accused as they left the scene, ensuring that the task of identifying them was somewhat easier for gardaí.

He said Mr Kilcullen had been clearly remorseful in the interview with gardaí just hours after the incident and that, while Mr Shannon initially denied any involvement, he soon realised the seriousness of the situation in his interview on Monday, December 19.

“The injuries (sustained by Mr O’Shea) were horrific,” said Judge O’Hagan.

“This young man spent almost six months in bed totally incapacitated as his family worried about him. They got at least three calls to come and say goodbye.

“He’s survived but he is left with a life that is shattered... but he is a man who has the strength to carry on.”

In mitigation, Judge O’Hagan said, was the fact that both accused had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, saving the State the time and expense of a trial and the O’Sheas the trauma of a full contested hearing.

However, he said that the fact that the accused had gone out spoiling for a fight and had both drank excessively were both aggravating factors to be considered.

Judge O’Hagan said he felt that the assault had been in the middle range of moderate but he accepted that the accused had not intended to cause this type of devastation to Mr O’Shea.

He rejected imposing a suspended sentence in this matter and said that although no application had been made for community service, “if it had he would not have agreed to it regardless”.

He then sentenced Mr Kilcullen to five years in prison with the final year suspended and Mr Shannon to three years in prison with the last suspended.

On hearing this, Mr Kilcullen broke down in the dock and his mother began sobbing, saying, “I don’t believe this, oh my child,” as he was led away in handcuffs.

She left the court and collapsed outside following the verdict.

Mr Shannon looked straight ahead as he was led away by prison officers.

Both young men have now been detained in custody to begin serving their sentences.

 

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