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Judge erred by failing to jail man over 'one-punch attack' that left victim in coma, State argues

Stephen Duffy had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing serious harm.
Jan 11th 2022, 6:51 PM 30,951 0

A JUDGE ERRED by failing to jail a man for “devastating one-punch attack” that left his victim in coma and suffering from a potentially fatal bleed on the brain, the State has argued before the Court of Appeal today.

Stephen Duffy (28) of Homelawn Road, Tallaght, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing serious harm to Darren Darley (50) after the two men crossed paths for the first time at Belgard Road, Tallaght, Dublin on 29 August 2016.

Although Judge Melanie Greally said Darley had been “fortunate to escape with his life” following the assault, she handed down a wholly suspended sentence of four years to his attacker at a hearing last July.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) later appealed the sentence on the grounds that it was unduly lenient.

At the Court of Appeal today, Garnet Orange SC, for the DPP, said a “single blow struck between strangers” can often have “devastating consequences for the parties concerned”.

In this case, which he said was a “classic one-strike assault case”, the immediate impact on the victim had been an extended stay in hospital where he had been treated for a “traumatic brain injury”.

In the longer term, he said Darley has had to close his recruitment business after he began to suffer from “deficits” in his memory.

Garnet also said the fact that Duffy returned to the scene to put his victim into the recovery position was not a significant mitigating factor given that the defendant then fled for a second time almost immediately and was only later traced by gardai as a result of “unusual clothing” he was wearing that night.

He said the DPP had no objection to the headline sentence of six-and-a-half years which Judge Greally had identified, or the post-mitigation term of four years, both of which were appropriate terms for the offence.

However, counsel said the sentencing judge had erred by failing to impose a custodial term on Duffy “in a manner that was consistent with sentences imposed in other cases”.

Giollaiosa Ó Lideadha SC, for Duffy, told the court that Judge Greally had given a “comprehensive and careful explanation as to why the sentence should have been wholly suspended”.

He said there had been no element of “prior planning” or “sustained violence” to the assault and the single blow was struck after a brief verbal exchange between the men took place.

Ó Lideadha said his client was now a father and that he was “extremely remorseful” for his actions.

Duffy, counsel continued, has “transformed his life in the intervening period” since the assault and was trying to do his best “as a human being, a worker, a father, and a partner to make a positive contribution to society”.

Judgment has been reserved.

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Trial evidence

CCTV footage played in court had displayed “a distinctively dressed person” later identified as Duffy approach Darley.

Duffy is then seen striking Darley, who falls to the ground.

Detective Garda Cian Stears told Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting that Darley sustained a bleed on his brain, was in a coma for a period of time, and had required life-saving surgery.

When Darley awoke from his coma he had no memory of the incident, the garda said.

The court was also told the victim agreed to accept €5,000 from Duffy earlier this year.

Judge Greally said she had suspended the entirety of the four-year sentence on strict conditions including that Duffy pay an additional €10,000 to the victim within a two-year period.

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Peter Doyle

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