A Polish national who stole a Laois youth’s phone in what was described by Judge Keenan Johnson as an “inter-gang altercation” has had community service imposed after appealing a prison sentence.
Before the recent circuit court was Lukasz Puk (35), previously of Roundwood Close, Maryborough Village, Mountrath Road, Portlaoise, but now residing in Limerick.
He was appealing a six-month prison sentence imposed on him in the district court, for an offence committed on November 20, 2017.
At the appeal, State solicitor, Mr Donal Dunne gave evidence that on November 20, 2017, two men followed a group of youths and when the injured party, a 15-year-old male, was attempting to flee he slipped off a wall.
The two men assailed him, with one man kicking and punching him while the appellant, Lukasz Puk, demanded the youth’s phone before leaving the scene.
When arrested, he admitted his part in the incident up to a point, said Mr Dunne, with the other man who was not apprehended doing a greater part in the offence.
The phone was returned undamaged to the injured party.
The appellant had no previous convictions.
Defence, barrister Ms Louise Troy said that her client, a Polish national, was not the main instigator in the incident and didn’t inflict any violence.
She said he took the phone but intended to give it back, after “provocation from the youths”. Ms Troy suggested that perhaps there had been a racial element to the incident.
Mr Dunne confirmed that the two parties were “semi-known” to each other.
Ms Troy went on to say that a probation report placed the appellant at a very low risk of reoffending and he was quite remorseful.
He has no supports in Ireland and is single with no children.
Judge Keenan Johnson described the incident as an “inter-gang altercation”.
He said he could see why the district court judge had imposed a jail sentence, but ruled that restorative justice was the way to go.
The matter was adjourned to June 27 for the appellant to be assessed for community service, with the judge recommending 200 hours’ community service in lieu of six months in jail.
When the case first came before Portlaoise District Court last December, Judge Catherine Staines said it was an extremely serious offence that merited a prison sentence.
However, she said she had to know how the incident had affected the injured party and directed a victim impact statement be compiled.
She also requested a probation order on the accused.
When the case returned to the district court in March of this year, the injured party’s father was in court with a victim impact statement.
Judge Staines read out the statement, in which the man said that the beating his son received was a shock to the victim and his family.
“It was exceedingly violent and without regard for his life,” he said.
The youth’s father said the boy found it very difficult to go back to school, and for the parents the incident had been a nightmare come true.
“I can’t imagine any justification for an attack of this nature,” he said.
Defence, solicitor Mr Declan Breen said the accused took the phone to teach the youth a lesson and return it later.
Mr Breen said that his client did not have compensation as he has no work and his social welfare was cut.
He was asking for time to pay, said defence.
However, Judge Staines described it as a violent attack on a child, which had a devastating effect on the young man.
Judge Staines noted that a probation report indicated that the accused had little insight into the seriousness of attacking a child and said she had to impose a sentence.
The judge imposed six months in prison and directed that €2,000 from the court poor box go to the injured party for whatever counselling he might need.
Recognisance was fixed in the district court for Puk to appeal the sentence.