A 54-YEAR-OLD man who was involved in a drunken street brawl spent 10 days in a coma and “almost died” after suffering a brain haemorrhage from hitting his head on the footpath, Limerick District Court has heard.
During five hours of evidence, Judge Eugene O’Kelly heard that the incident had been set off by a row over a cigarette on O’Connell Street in the early hours of May 15, 2011.
Robert Gibbons, 27, of The Cloisters, North Circular Road, and Darragh Gleeson, 26, of Merval Drive, Clareview, both denied affray and assaulting Padraig Sheehy contrary to the Public Order Act.
Mr Sheehy, 32, of Coolrus, Granagh, said he had been on a night out with his wife Patricia Noonan and was smoking outside Abrakebabra when Mr Gibbons had approached him for a cigarette.
“I didn’t have one. I offered him the one I was smoking but that wasn’t good enough and he started abusing me,” Mr Sheehy said.
Mr Gibbons, he said, had also called his wife “a f**king tramp” before the fight broke out.
Kevin Gleeson, the father of the accused, had “come out of nowhere, took his jacket off and squared up to me”.
“He made a drive at me and we both fell to the ground,” Mr Sheehy said, and it was in this fall that 54-year-old Kevin Gleeson had suffered serious head injuries.
CCTV footage showed both accused aiming kicks and punches at Mr Sheehy, including to the head, as he was on his hands and knees. The accused men then returned to Kevin Gleeson. Mr Sheehy had got up and punched Darragh Gleeson as he tended to his unconscious father.
A member of the public had taken Mr Sheehy and Ms Noonan away from the scene but Mr Sheehy said that Darragh Gleeson and Robert Gibbons had followed the couple first to Burger King, issuing threats all the while.
He had asked security at Burger King not to let the men in and one had shouted “We’re going to f*** you up”, from outside the door. Ms Noonan had called a friend to collect them in a car and they had exited through a side door to get away.
Mr Sheehy denied under cross-examination from Darrach McCarthy, solicitor, that it was he who had instigated the whole thing by first squaring up to Robert Gibbons and that when the accused had stepped away he had gone back for more.
“You went into the middle of them and you caught Kevin Gleeson, an elderly man. You caught him and you dragged him to the ground, as a result of which he hit his head and was in taken to ICU. He was there for a number of weeks. He almost died,” Mr McCarthy said.
He conceded that Mr Sheehy would not have known of Kevin Gleeson’s pre-existing medical problems which had included arthritis, diabetes, heart problems and partial sight loss in one eye.
Stills from the CCTV footage showed Mr Gibbons attempting to pull Padraig Sheehy off a prostrate Kevin Gleeson, Mr McCarthy said.
Mr Sheehy had told gardai that the “anger had been boiling out of” Kevin Gleeson before the melee while Ms Noonan told Judge O’Kelly that the older man was “very aggressive and very wild”. She said Kevin Gleeson had grabbed her by the collar but Mr McCarthy said there was no evidence of that on CCTV.
Eoin Mahon, the man who had escorted the couple away after the fight, told the court he had seen Kevin Gleeson going for Padraig Sheehy and that when he moved to step out of the way both men had hit the ground.
Kevin Gleeson, who has suffered memory problems and has had to use a walking stick since the brawl, said he couldn’t remember why he had taken his jacket off. He had been “astounded” when shown CCTV of the incident. “I am not aggressive in any way. It is not in my character,” Mr Gleeson said, adding he had only intervened “to calm things down”.
Darragh Gleeson, who has been his father’s official carer since the incident, told the court that he didn’t know at the time how his father had ended up on the ground. He had intervened when he saw Padraig Sheehy on top of his father, he told Inspector Seamus Ruane.
“I hit him a few times. I didn’t want him to get back up and assault my father again,” Mr Gleeson said.
Insp Ruane said the five kicks and two punches he had aimed at Mr Sheehy went “far above and beyond any form of defence”.
“You were very reckless. He could have sustained serious injuries, perhaps even fatal,” the inspector said.
Mr Gleeson replied that was possible but it was his father who had received serious injuries on the night.
He pointed out that it was the accused men who had called the gardai on the night and the reason they had followed the couple to Burger King was to ensure Mr Sheehy didn’t get away.
CCTV footage showed Robert Gibbons kick Mr Sheehy twice and punch him five times. He said he had done so to get Mr Sheehy off Kevin Gleeson. Mr Gibbons denied calling Patricia Noonan “a f***ing tramp”, saying it was not a word he would use, “especially to a woman”.
Judge O’Kelly dismissed the charge of affray against both men over a defect in the wording of the charge that the accused had “threatened to use violence against each other”.
“What is quite obvious is a night out socialising which ought to have been an occasion of enjoyment degenerated into a drunken brawl,” the judge said.
It was also clear that by “scrounging a smoke from a stranger on O’Connell Street, Robert Gibbons set off a series of events that culminated in the father of his friend being left in a coma for 10 days, having suffered a massive brain haemorrhage and long-term debilitating effects”.
It was something Kevin Gleeson “will no doubt regret this for the rest of his life”.
He was satisfied that Robert Gibbons had also insulted Ms Noonan “in extremely offensive terms”.
Mr Sheehy had “reacted extremely badly” and had gone back over to the men after his wife appeared to have persuaded him to stand aside.
“It was at that stage that Kevin Gleeson took off his jacket which in the intoxicated condition of the men involved could only have been interpreted as meaning he wanted to be involved in a fight,” the judge said.
The charge of assault under Section 18 of the Public Order Act required proof of “intent to cause bodily harm”.
If he accepted Darragh Gleeson was acting to protect his father, that was “a lawful form of self-defence”. He was happy to dismiss the charge against Darragh Gleeson.
Nor had intent to cause injury been established in the case of Robert Gibbons.
While he dismissed the charge against Mr Gibbons, the judge said he was “not one bit impressed” with that accused.
“He seems to have a dismissive attitude to the entire matter”, the judge said, adding he was “concerned about his behaviour when he goes out at night”.
He noted that Mr Gibbons had told gardai that getting into a fight “wouldn’t be the strangest occurrence on a night out”.
The judge considered Mr Gibbons to be “a danger to the peace” and bound him to the peace for two years on his own bond of €500.
Had he been prosecuted under another section, Robert Gibbons would have been convicted, the judge said.
Insp Ruane said directions had been received from the DPP to prosecute on the two charges before the court.