A 24-year-old Shannon man was handed a three-year jail term for carrying out an unprovoked hammer attack, in which he left his victim with lacerations and a broken collar bone, all for a €9.50 packet of Benson and Hedges cigarettes.
Dominic Hayes, with an address at Inis Eagla, pleaded guilty to the robbery of a 27-year-old chef at Coill Mhara in Shannon, where he struck him a number of times about the head and shoulder with a hammer. The incident occurred on August 4, 2013 and it was outlined that Hayes called the chef a “scumbag” before beginning his assault.
Recalling the details of the case before Judge Gerald Keys at Ennis Circuit Court on Tuesday, prosecuting counsel Stephen Coughlan, (BL), said this was an unprovoked attack where the injured party was hit on the head, resulting in two lacerations.
He said the injured party told gardaí he was “terrified”. He said the accused had then dragged the injured party to a nearby alley and struck him again with the hammer, breaking his collar bone.
“He took the injured party’s wallet but there was nothing in it and warned him not to call the gardaí, or he would put a bullet in his head,” Mr Coughlan said.
He told the court the injured party needed eight stitches for his wounds and was out of work for eight weeks as a result of the broken collarbone. “It has had a serious effect on him and his family,” Mr Coughlan concluded.
Defence Counsel Mark Nicholas, (BL), outlined to the court that his client has been in custody since he was arrested on foot of this matter on August 13, 2013 and handed in a number of doctors’ reports to the court. He said they outlined that his client suffers from a psychotic disorder, having been diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia. He said the nature of the disorder could be linked to his history of abusing illegal drugs, in particular cannabis.
He outlined that prior to this incident, Hayes had been incarcerated for a period of time and that his condition did not improve while in prison. He stressed to the court that detention would not help matters.
Judge Gerald Keys said it is questionable as to whether Hayes’ medical condition is as a consequence of his drug abuse but said this case did send out a message to others of the impact such drugs can have.
Judge Keys said he must consider the accused man’s neurological condition in passing sentence.
Addressing the accused, he said he was lucky not to have ended up before a higher court on this matter as “hitting someone on the head can lead to death or permanent disability”.
He said there were a number of aggravating factors involved in the case, and he must also consider the impact this attack had on the victim. However, he noted that in the accused man’s favour was his plea of guilty.
Commenting on a doctor’s report submitted to the court, Judge Keys said he found one aspect of it “disturbing”, which was that the risk of Hayes re-offending was high but “unfortunately, this State does not have the facilities to deal with someone with a medical condition such as this through an institution or by way of incarceration”.
He said there simply are not the facilities in this country for those with a diagnosis like Hayes, who were “unable to help themselves”. “Since I have been on the bench that’s been the case and nothing has happened since to remedy this,” he said.
Judge Keys said he had a duty to “protect society” and said to Hayes that if he could send him to a facility other than jail where he might get the help he needs, he would. But, he added, “it is not in this country”.
He imposed a three-year jail sentence, with three months of it suspended. The sentence was backdated to when Hayes first went into custody on August 13, 2013. The three-month non-custodial portion of the sentence was suspended for two years from the actual date of his release. A condition of the suspension is that Hayes be of good behaviour and submit to the directions of the Probation Services, including any that relate to programmes or medical treatment during those two years.
By Carol Byrne