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Man who attacked pregnant woman and her brother over Facebook taunts jailed for five years

The judge described the attack as “unprovoked” and “premeditated”.

Image: Shutterstock/ESB Professional

AN EXPECTANT MOTHER was terrified that a man armed with a knife, cutting through her layers of clothing, had cut her in the vicinity of her stomach.

At Ennis Circuit Court today, Judge Gerald Keys said that Mary Harty was “terrified” as she believed that Brian Joyce (23) had cut her in the vicinity of her stomach during the assault by Brian Joyce and his late brother, John Joyce at the Harty home in Ennis in October 2015.

Harty didn’t sustain any knife wounds but Judge Keys said that she was “kneed in the stomach several times and put in fear for the welfare of her unborn child” during what he described as a ‘vicious assault’ by Brian Joyce and John Joyce (21) on Harty’s then 17-year-old brother, Danny.

During the daytime assault, involving a carpet knife and blades and sparked by Facebook taunts, Harty had gone to the aid of her brother, but was powerless to stop what Judge Keys described as the ‘unprovoked, premeditated’ assault by Brian Joyce on her brother.

As a result of the daytime assault, Danny Harty sustained slash wounds requiring 100 stitches to his face. In her victim impact statement, Harty said: “Every time I look at my baby I am still lucky to have her as they could’ve taken her away from me.”

In court today, Judge Keys imposed a six and a half-year jail term on Brian Joyce formerly of Beechpark, Ennis, for the assault causing serious harm to Danny Harty and the assault to Mary Harty.

Judge Keys said that he would suspend the final 18 months of the jail term having regard to Joyce’s medical condition.

Two days after Brian Joyce was remanded in custody for the Harty attack in October 2015, he suffered brain damage and the loss of hearing in one ear as a result of an assault on him at Limerick prison.

At today’s sentencing hearing, Brian Joyce asked could be sit closer to the judge in the witness box due to his hearing difficulties.

Judge Keys said that the assault was at the higher end of the mid range of assaults that warrants jail terms between four and seven and a half years.

Judge Keys said that in Joyce’s favour, he had pleaded guilty and shown remorse.

The co-accused in the Harty assault case, John Joyce was murdered in England in August.

Garda Robert Grant told the court that when he came across Danny Harty at the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit at Ennis General Hospital after the attack on 14 October 2015, Harty’s face and hands were completely covered in bandages.

He said that while at the A&E, he witnessed Harty’s face being re-bandaged as the first set of bandages were soaked in blood.

Garda Grant said that Harty – now aged 19 – was unable to sign his Garda statement due to injuries to his hands and signed it only with an ‘X’.

In the attack, Harty suffered a slash wound from the top of his forehead to the tip of his nose while he was also slashed across the left cheek to the top of his lip.

“The scars won’t let me forget”

In his victim impact statement, Harty said for months after, he couldn’t hold his new baby “as [his] hands were in plaster and in pain”.

He said: “Every time I look in the mirror I keep thinking of what happened to me that day because the scars won’t let me forget.”

In the witness box earlier this month, Joyce said that he wanted to apologise to Danny Harty and his family.

Asked what was the motivation around the assault, Joyce said that he was in ‘the madhouse’ when he got a call from his brother, John, about what Daniel Harty was saying about John on Facebook.

The father of two said that he checked himself out of the psychiatric unit and phoned the Hartys demanding the Facebook messages be taken down.

Joyce – who has 17 previous convictions – said that when this wasn’t done, he went to the Harty home and Daniel Harty “said things I didn’t want to hear him say”.

He said: “I am sad with what I have done and I want to apologise. I know I did something very wrong.”

Holding holy beads and a photograph of his brother, John, Brian Joyce said that himself and John “were young and foolish”.

He said: “I was suffering with depression at the time and it was myself and John who found my father’s body after he committed suicide.”

On the assault, Joyce said: “If I could do it all over again, I would never do it.”

Joyce said that “my heart is broken” over the death of his brother, John.

Judge Keys today backdated the prison term to 15 May when Joyce first went into custody.

Judge Keys recommended that Joyce be brought to Cork prison instead of Limerick prison due to Joyce’s fears over returning to Limerick prison.

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Gordon Deegan

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