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26 Jun 2022

Longford man jailed for ‘spontaneous’ act of ‘barbarism’ with son

Longford man jailed for ‘spontaneous’ act of ‘barbarism’ with son

A Longford man charged with section 4 assault causing serious harm to another man has been sentenced to 80 months in prison, with the final 17 months suspended, following a sitting of Longford Circuit Court last week.

Derek Doherty (52), Vicarstown, Ballymahon, Co Longford, was due to stand trial earlier this year but pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to another just before a jury was impanelled.

His son, Nathan (23) was jailed last year for a period of six years, with the final three suspended, for his involvement in the same attack but the DPP is currently appealing the leniency of the sentence.

The court heard that, on Sunday, June 3, 2018, at a Colehill address, at 3:04am, Gardaí received a call in relation to an assault and a number of members were dispatched to the scene, where the injured party was discovered with serious injuries and required hospitalisation.

Barrister for the state, Mr Shane Geraghty outlined to the court that on the Saturday afternoon, Sharon Doherty, wife of the accused and her friend went out to socialise in Mullingar and met with the injured party before returning to the Colehill address.

“Derek and Nathan became suspicious regarding Sharon indicating she’d stay over because she wouldn’t typically do that,” said Mr Geraghty, adding that the pair drove to the Colehill property.

“Nathan had gone around the back of the house and observed his mother in a state of undress, while Derek banged on the door. He could see through the glass of the door and saw his wife standing naked in the hallway.”

The injured party, in his statement to Gardaí, said that he was lying on his chest when “two lads” came straight through the door and “leapt on him”, with one of them shouting “give it to him, give it to him”.

He added that he ended up in “a wrestling match” with the two men and received a number of punches and kicks. He turned on his side to try and defend himself but was pushed off the bed and pinned between the bed and the radiator.

The injured party said the light was then switched on in the room and he could see his attackers “as plain as day” and that he felt things “being broken across his back” and all the time, the punches and kicks kept coming.

The court heard that the older of the two men had the injured party in a headlock, reached down to grab him by his genitals and was pulling and squeezing his penis and testicles while shouting “do the b******, do the b******” at his son.

“The injured party describes he was fighting for his life and that the young man was behind him and had already hit him with a stick,” said Mr Geraghty.

“He was using one hand to try to pull Derek Doherty’s hand away from him while the younger man was trying to put a stick of some sort into his anus and he used his other hand to try and stop him.

“He said he thought his life was ending. He couldn’t stop him and Nathan forced the stick into his anus, pulled it out and forced it in again and left it inside him.

“He said the assault came to a stop then and they walked around the room before the older man drew the boot on him,” said Mr Geraghty.

When they left, the injured party pulled the object, which turned out to be a curtain pole, from his anus.

Emergency services and Gardaí arrived a short time later and he was brought first to Mullingar Hospital before being transferred to the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

When Gardaí arrived, they observed blood on the wall and in the hallway and Sharon Doherty informed them that it was her husband and son who were responsible for the attack.

Mr Doherty was arrested on June 3, 2018, and cautioned. He conceded he grabbed the man by his genitals and that a row ensued. He also admitted that he “probably did draw the boot” and said he left the house and broke the wing mirror on a car parked outside.

However, he denied using an implement on the injured party and also denied any knowledge of the implement being used by his son at any stage, telling Gardaí, “Jesus, you wouldn’t do that to a dog” and “he didn’t get any assistance from me for that”.

The man came away with horrendous injuries, including bruising to his body and face, swollen genitals and significant injuries to his rectum, leaving him with a stoma bag for 16 months and lasting injuries.

In his victim impact statement, which was read out on his behalf in court, the injured party said the men were like “two starved animals” and his “screams of intolerable pain” didn’t stop them.

He said the crime has “torn me to pieces” and that the two men beat him “to within an inch of my life”, leaving him in “a very dark place for a very long time”.

He also said he has “disturbing flashbacks in waking life” and nightmares when he sleeps, of what the two men, to whom he referred as “sick individuals” did to him that night.

He said he lost so many opportunities and he lost his confidence as a result of this incident and that he will not engage with strangers, particularly women.

“It seems that an act of infidelity by Mr Doherty’s wife led to this unfortunate and horrific incident,” said Defence Barrister, John Shortt.

“When Mr Doherty came upon the house with his son, his wife was engaged in an intimate situation with the injured party which, perhaps, is no excuse for the behaviour but it does explain the explosion of violence that took place.”

Mr Doherty himself took to the stand to read a letter of apology he had written to the injured party.

“I can’t begin to explain how sorry I am that I had hurt you in any way,” he said.

“I have accepted my guilt. I wish I could turn back the clock and undo the harm I caused you.”

Passing judgement, Judge Comerford said that this was “spontaneous and horrific behaviour” and that Mr Doherty, while he was not the one holding the curtain pole, was the more culpable of the two because of his relationship to the co-accused.

“This was a truly tragic night for so many people involved - particularly the victim who met with a woman who he thought was not entangled with anyone,” said Judge Comerford.

“But her husband and son became aware and then, in an act of barbarism, they sought to punish the injured party for being with Mrs Doherty. They were of the view this gave them a right to maim and who knows what else.”

Addressing the assault with the curtain pole, Judge Comerford said he was not satisfied with suggestions that Mr Doherty was not aware of what was happening because “Mr Doherty was attempting to do significant damage to the victim’s genital area” at the time.

“After this injury was sustained, the pole was left in place, then Mr Doherty went to kick the victim in the head. This kick to the head of a person who is down and unable to defend themselves is a most serious assault without a weapon,” he said.

“That’s the type of attack that can result in people dying or being left with a serious brain injury. In this case, there was clear intent to inflict harm that was going to have catastrophic consequences.

“This was a reactive attack, not premeditated, but that scarcely justifies it. This was a very serious crime with very serious consequences.

“No matter how outraged a husband is, no matter how outraged or disappointed a son is in his mother, it doesn’t justify two people attacking a defenceless person who didn’t know what was happening.”

Judge Comerford also said he was satisfied that Mr Doherty “couldn’t not be aware that the curtain pole was being used”.

“Even in the heat of the moment, he had to have known that very serious injuries had to have been caused to the victim,” he continued.

“Derek was the person with greater responsibility. But rather than put any restraint on his son, he allowed him to be involved in this attack,” said Judge Comerford.

“The appropriate headline sentence for Mr Doherty’s conduct - which I regard as being more culpable because of the relationship between them - is eight and a half years,” he added.

However, with mitigating factors, including Mr Doherty’s acceptance of some degree of responsibility initially and, later, a guilty plea and testimonials as to his “generally good character” and “productive life”, this was reduced from 102 months in prison to 80 months.

“It has to be clear that, just because a husband gets angry, there is no law that a husband is allowed to do damage. There has to be a deterrence. There has to be rehabilitation,” said Judge Comerford.

He then proceeded to suspend the final 17 months of the sentence on the condition that Mr Doherty keeps the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of 17 months following his release.

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