Port man’s ‘savagery’ with broken bottle

Portlaoise Courthouse.

Portlaoise Courthouse.

A PORTARLINGTON man convicted of assaulting a man with psychiatric difficulties who he claimed had plied his teenage sister with drink and drugs has been remanded in custody for sentencing at the Circuit Court in Portlaoise.

James Ward (21) was charged with aggravated burglary at Apt 1, Barrow Mews, Portarlington, on March 9/10 2011.

Garda Sergeant James Phelan gave evidence, led by State prosecutor, Mr Will Fennelly. At half past midnight, the night steward at the apartments, who looks after persons with mental difficulties, found the victim, Mr Philip Gannon, in an extremely injured state with large wounds on his head and face and blood everywhere. Glass was scattered around the apartment from two broken bottles and a long stick was also found. Ambulance staff had to revive Mr Gannon and when he sat up, a severe wound was observed on the back of his neck. He had a weak pulse and was taken to the Midlands hospital, before he was transferred to St James Hospital in Dublin.

Sgt Phelan gave the background to the case. The day before the assault, the injured party had met up with Ward’s 14-year-old sister, Jade, who was known locally as “Bubbles”, and another girl. The two girls got very drunk with Mr Gannon, to such an extent that Jade Ward had to be taken to hospital. Ward and two associates then went to Mr Gannon’s apartment “to put manners on him”.

The three men forced the patio door of the apartment and found Mr Gannon on the couch. Ward picked up a beer bottle and broke it on Mr Gannon’s head, and the injured party was so inebriated he remained in a passed out state during the attack. The court heard that he was struck a number of times with the bottle and also received a series of very severe blows from a long stick. The attack lasted a number of minutes and Mr Gannon subsequently spent five days in hospital. He has been left with extensive scarring from the incident.

Extracts from Ward’s interview with the gardaí were read out by Mr Fennelly.

The court heard that Ward said: “I was enraged, I wanted to kill him... I asked had he given my sister drink and drugs and he wouldn’t reply to me. His face went very white, I could see everything in his face. I blanked out, my blood boiled.”

Sgt Phelan added that Ward had also said his hands and fists were hurting him the day after the assault.

Defence, Mr Padraig O’Dwyer said his client had expressed remorse for the attack. Mr O’Dwyer cited a paragraph from Ward’s interview, in which Ward said: “I felt no sympathy until (the gardaí) showed me the photos. Please tell him I’m sorry I did that.”

Mr O’Dwyer said that Ward had been present when his sister Jade collapsed from alcohol and he had been told she had been given vodka and cocaine. A toxicology report subsequently showed there was no cocaine present.

Defence presented the defendant’s father, Mr Christopher Ward, who took the witness box to tell the court that James had been under the influence of his older brother at the time. Mr Ward said that James’ brother is “very violent” and has a number of charges for stabbings.

“I never had problems with James, he’s not violent. I went in the ambulance with Jade, if I hadn’t gone this wouldn’t have happened,” said Mr Ward.

Judge Tony Hunt said he noted that this was a first time offence and Ward had entered a guilty plea, however he remarked that nothing could licence this kind of “savagery”.

“When you close your door behind you, you hope that you’re safe,” said Judge Hunt. “You take your life in your hands when you go out for a pint, but the home is different. I have to impose a custodial sentence... not to do so would be to legitimise retribution.”

The judge said he was not going to make any instant decision as the crime was far too serious and he put the matter back for a probation report.

Ward was remanded in custody to April 23.


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