A transgender woman who assaulted a family friend who was trying to break up a fight outside a bar is a “vulnerable” person who will find prison particularly difficult, a Dublin court has heard.
There are only two transgender women in the Irish prison system, defence barrister Cathleen Noctor SC told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Friday. They are both being held in women's jails and kept separate from the rest of the prison population, the court heard.
Ms Noctor was speaking in the case of Shauna Kavanagh, previously known as Sean Kavanagh, who pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing harm and two counts of assault on James Street, Dublin on December 9, 2017.
The court heard Kavanagh of Priory Hall Whitehall Road, Kimmage Manor, Dublin has transitioned to a woman since the assaults took place and is now known as Shauna Kavanagh. A gender recognition certificate was handed up in court.
The court heard Kavanagh assaulted Thomas Coogan, a family friend, by punching him to the face when Mr Coogan tried to break up a row outside the Malt House Bar on James Street. Mr Coogan suffered a fractured skull and bleeding to the brain and spent several days in intensive care, the court heard.
He made a full recovery but has since died from cancer, Garda David Redmond told the court.
The court heard Kavanagh was kicked out of the pub after becoming drunk and knocking over several glasses during a karaoke session. Kavanagh punched a bar man, Ian Byrne, and threw a bottle at an event manager, Denis Heatly, while being kicked out of the bar.
When Kavanagh tried to run back into the bar, Mr Coogan intervened and Kavanagh punched him, causing him to fall and hit his head off the road.
Before he died, Mr Coogan wrote a letter to the court saying he bore no ill-will or malice towards Kavanagh. Mr Coogan's partner, who is Kavanagh's aunt and who was present at the time, also told gardaí she did not believe Kavanagh meant to assault her partner, the court heard.
There were no victim impact statements before the court.
Kavanagh has two minor previous convictions for public order and failing to produce a specimen, Eilis Brennan SC, prosecuting, told the court. Further theft charges are currently before the District Court.
Ms Noctor told the court that Kavanagh was “appalled, disgusted, ashamed” of the incident and had no memory of the events of that night.
Ms Noctor said Kavanagh “is a person who until recently lived her life repressing her true identity”.
The court heard Kavanagh had been living in London as a woman prior to the incident, but upon returning to Dublin was “suppressing her gender”.
A psychological report handed up to court said Kavanagh's “anger (that night) is likely to have emanated from the frustration about how her life was progressing...including suppressed gender”, the court heard.
Ms Noctor cited international research which has found transgender women in particular are a vulnerable group in prison.
“This would make it particularly difficult for her to serve a prison sentence,” Ms Noctor said.
Judge Elma Sheahan adjourned the matter to Monday when she will set a sentence date.