30 Nov 2021

Longford man jailed for biting brother's ear in drink fuelled row

Longford Courthouse.

A man has been jailed for biting his brother's ear, leaving him with a permanent scar during a row in Newtownforbes over two years ago.

A man who bit his brother’s ear causing two thirds of it to be removed during an alcohol fuelled row has been handed a 12 month prison sentence.

Martin McDonagh, 16 Clonguish Court, Newtownforbes, Co Longford pleaded guilty at Longford Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing serious harm to Thomas McDonagh at the aforementioned address on August 27 2016.

The court heard how the defendant had invited his brother to his house where a drinking session ensued with both men and their two respective wives.

It was during this get-together that a fight caused by a disagreement over the two men’s mother broke out which soon spilled out onto the front lawn.

During the struggle, it emerged Mr McDonagh gripped the left ear of his brother with his teeth.
The damage was so severe, two thirds of the defendant’s brother’s ear lobe was removed, leaving him with a disfiguring scar.

Judge Keenan Johnston said a particularly aggravating factor in the case was Mr McDonagh’s refusal to accept any initial responsibility for his actions, labelling an attempt to lay the blame on his brother’s wife as an “appalling vista”.

The father of two, who by his own admission has struggled with alcohol and drugs addiction, completed a 12 week rehabilitative programme at Cuan Mhuire in Athy, Co Kildare shortly before Christmas 2017.

However, when in the witness box Mr McDonagh admitted the following June he suffered a relapse, resulting in him getting behind the wheel of a car which subsequently ended in him hitting and fatally injuring a pedestrian on the main N4, close to Newtownforbes.

Thirty-two-year-old Craig McDermott was killed as he walked with another man along the main carriageway at Deerpark on June 15 2018.

Though no criminal proceedings have been launched against Mr McDonagh, he told Judge Johnston: “If I could give my life for that boy to be here, I would.”

After insisting he had handed himself into gardaí the following day, Mr McDonagh added: “I didn’t think it was a person I hit, I just panicked.”

Judge Johnston said despite it being apparent no formal charges had yet been brought against the defendant, it was clear both episodes were down to Mr McDonagh’s dependency to alcohol.

“Of grave concern is that the accused in June of last year apparently on his own admission took a car out,” said Judge Johnston.

“He said he relapsed and was drinking when the car was involved in the fatal death of a pedestrian.”

Testimonies were also provided by Mr McDonagh’s wife, Lena as well as his brother and victim in the case, Thomas McDonagh.

Both pleaded with Judge Johnston to refrain from issuing a custodial sentence in view of the ill health of his own mother and the imminent arrival of his third child.

Judge Johnston said both statements, together with Mr McDonagh’s early plea and offer of €2,500 by way of compensation were mitigating factors.

However, he said the 25-year-old’s decision to bite the ear of his own brother was an “extremely violent, out of control action” and, as such, had to be treated as a “hugely aggravating factor”.

A reluctance to fully engage with both the probation services and alcohol treatment aftercare programmes alongside his original decision to apportion the blame on his sister-in-law were further factors in determining sentencing, he added.

In doing that, he said the court was obliged to consider the five pillars of sentencing, namely punishment, deterrence, restitution, rehabilitation and protection of the public.

“The court must impose a sentence that reflects the gravity of the offence and the culpability of the accused,” he said, describing the actions of Mr McDonagh and injuries sustained by his victim as being at the upper end of seriousness.

“The maximum sentence for an offence of this nature is five years in prison and I am absolutely satisfied that given the gravity of this offence it ranks at the apex of offending behaviour and does before mitigation attract a sentence of four years and six months,” he said.

In taking into account all the mitigating factors before him which also included the defendant’s health issues and the fact he is on disability, Judge Johnston said it was incumbent on him to issue a sentence that reflected both the gravity of the offence and the culpability of the accused.

“The court also has to bear in mind the incarceration of the accused will deprive his wife and children of his companionship, it will probably impact negatively on his mother for whom he is a carer and it will have devastating impact on the entire family,” said the judge.

As such, Judge Johnston handed down a three year prison sentence, suspending the final two years.

They were suspended on the proviso Mr McDonagh adhered to a number of strict conditions upon his release from prison, one of which required Mr McDonagh to enter into a €500 bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of five years post release.

Further conditions included €2,500 to be paid to his brother, upon his release from prison Mr McDonagh submit himself to the Probation Services for ongoing advice and consultations over his addiction issues, to remain drug and alcohol free during the term of the suspended sentence and when, as requested, submit urine analysis to the Gardaí.

The sentence, he ordered, would not be activated until March 12 in order to allow Mr McDonagh assist his wife into settling into their new home which they are due to move into this week.

In the immediate aftermath of making his determination, Mr McDonagh’s wife attempted to approach the bench, shouting to Judge Johnston: “I’m begging you, please.”

As he turned down those overtures, Judge Johnston told defence counsel Des Dockery SC his hands were tied, adding it was “the most benign sentence which could have been imposed in the circumstances.”

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