THE OWNER of a Newcastle West nightclub was violently assaulted as he tried to break up a fight on the street following a secondary school graduation party, the local court has heard.
Declan O’Grady, a well-known local businessman and owner of Club Mission on Church Street, suffered serious injuries to his face after he was punched by 19-year-old Richard O’Shaughnessy, of Lios Dara, Broadford in the early hours of May 23.
O’Shaughnessy pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Mr O’Grady at a sitting of Newcastle West Court last Friday, where he was warned that his actions could “merit a jail sentence”.
The court heard that on the night in question a graduation party for students of Hazelwood College, Dromcollogher had been taking place in Mr O’Grady’s premises.
Supt Dan Flavin told the court that Mr O’Grady, who “plays a hands-on role in the management of his premises”, had been helping staff to close up at 1.50am when an altercation broke out on the street outside involving a number of young men.
Mr O’Grady then intervened in a bid to break up the fight, and proceeded to hold one of the young men involved “against a parked car”.
At this point, O’Shaughnessy came up from behind Mr O’Grady and “struck him on the right hand side of his face”, causing significant injuries. Photographs of Mr O’Grady’s face taken after the attack were presented to the court, and showed severe bruising and swelling underneath his right eye.
Supt Flavin said that Mr O’Grady has since made a full recovery.
Solicitor Michael O’Donnell, defending, said that O’Shaughnessy is “very contrite” about his actions and attempted to apologise to Mr O’Grady afterwards “on a number of occasions”.
Mr O’Donnell described the assault as “a very unfortunate incident”, to which Judge Mary Larkin replied “it certainly was, for Mr O’Grady”.
Mr O’Donnell said that as the fight was taking place, O’Shaughnessy “saw his friend being restrained” by Mr O’Grady, but “didn’t know” that he was the nightclub’s owner. In punching Mr O’Grady in the face, “his aim was to get free the person being held against the car”, Mr O’Donnell added.
Mr O’Donnell said that assault causing harm is an “obviously very serious” offence, which the accused “accepts”. However, he said that the injuries caused “were not intentional”. The court heard that the accused has no previous convictions and “comes from a good family background”.
Judge Larkin issued a stern rebuke to O’Shaughnessy. “I can’t accept this defence that assaults aren’t intentional. You just can’t go around injuring people. I can’t see how it doesn’t merit a jail sentence”.
Mr O’Donnell asked if the court would be willing to consider an offer of compensation by O’Shaughnessy to Mr O’Grady.
Supt Flavin said that following the attack, Mr O’Grady incurred €150 in medical expenses, and €2,200 in net lost wages for being out of work for two weeks.
After considering the case during a brief recess, Judge Larkin said that she would be inclined to adjourn the case if an agreement on compensation could be reached.
Mr O’Donnell said that O’Shaughnessy’s father, who was present with his son in court, had offered €500 in cash as an opening payment. He requested an adjournment to February for the payment of another €500. Mr O’Donnell said that the accused has a brother working in Australia, and that he hopes to join in there in future.
Judge Larkin said that case was “a question of the punishment meeting the crime”, and stated that “a financial penalty is significant in this day and age”. Solicitor Kate Cussen, who had a watching brief in the case on behalf of Mr O’Grady, said that her client was “not agreeable” to the staggered compensation offer.
The judge replied “if [the defendant] had all the money, he would have handed it over. He’s 19-years-of-age”. She added that she is “very conscious” of O’Shaughnessy’s desire to go to Australia.
The case was adjourned until February 8.