Man freed after brutal assault on girlfriend is jailed on appeal

October 1, 2020

A man who brutally assaulted his girlfriend after downing a dozen pints of Guinness has been jailed for 18 months after he originally walked free from court.

Stephen Connor treated the woman to a brutal onslaught during which he repeatedly punched her in the face and threatened her with knives.

However, despite being sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail, Judge John Aylmer decided to suspend the sentence a Letterkenny Circuit Court in Donegal in July, 2019.

Judge Aylmer said 43 year old Connor seemed genuinely remorseful and that the incident was completely out of character for him.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, represented by barrister Fiona Crawford, then decided to appeal what it called the undue leniency of the sentence.

And Connor was this week the Court of Appeal decided that Connor should serve 18 months in prison.

Judges Birmingham, McCarthy and Ni Raifeartaigh said there was an error in principle insofar as the sentencing judge placed too much weight on the mitigating factors leading him to fully suspend the sentence and that the sentence crossed the border from lenient to ‘unduly lenient’.

They specifically referred to the fact that a knife was used in the attack and had also pleaded guilty to three very serious offences of assault, false imprisonment and the production of  knife.

Connor, of Tuam, Kilrooskey, Roscommon had pleading guilty to all charges when he attacked Brid Pierce at Fortwell, Letterkenny on May 5, 2018.

Ms Pierce was found ‘visibly dishevelled with blood pouring down her’ by Gardaí, while knives were scattered on the floor and a clump of her hair found in a ziploc bag.

Connor had been in a relationship with Ms Pierce from November 2017-March 2018, but he continued to reside at the address as a Tennant. However, after Connor failed to meet rent and food payments, Ms Pierce evicted him from the property.

The Court heard that Connor returned to the house, picked up a small knife, saying ‘this isn’t a knife’ as he threw it into the sink. Connor then picked up another knife from a knife block, telling Ms Pierce, ’this is a knife’.

Connor knocked the knife block to the floor and pushed Ms Pierce against the cooker. As the victim reached for her phone, Connor kicked it away, saying ‘go on, call the guards, you don’t know who I am’.

Connor held Ms Pierce against the cooker with his forearm, making ‘threatening stabbing actions to her head’ before throwing her head against the press.

Connor cut Ms Pierce’s face and head. The victim, who told Gardaí that she could ‘feel blood all over my face’ attempted to bolt for the door.

Connor caught up with her, punching her to the back of the head. Connor repeatedly punched Ms Pierce, striking his victim so hard at one stage that he lost his own balance.

Ms Pierce told of her experience in a victim impact statement, in which she told how she now lives ‘off the euphoria of having escaped’.

“He did not say one word, it was silent, relentless battering while I shouted in vain for help,” she said.

In a single-page letter to the victim and her two sons, Connor said he was unable to forgive himself for what happened.

Judge Aylmer said Ms Pierce suffered a ‘very violent assault over a protracted period’.

“This is a case of fairly extreme domestic violence,” Judge Aylmer said.

“Ms Pierce was exposed to a protracted and fairly brutal onslaught during which she was repeatedly punched.”

In mitigation, Judge Aylmer said, Connor had presented himself immediately to Letterkenny Garda Station and appeared ‘genuinely remorseful’.

“It was a single, isolated incident of violence and appears to have been completely out of character,” Judge Aylmer said.

The only explanation, Judge Aylmer said, for Connor’s action was his highly-intoxicated state. Connor admitted that he had drank 12 pints of Guinness prior to the attack.

Judge Aylmer said Connor was class as a low risk of reoffending.

“His difficulties are with alcohol, related to significant psychological difficulties,” Judge Aylmer said.

The Judge said it was ‘an exceptional case of serious crime’.

He sentenced Connor to two and a half years in prison on the charge of assault causing harm. On the charges of making a threat to kill and falsely imprisoning Ms Pierce, Connor was sentenced to 18 months on each.

Judge Aylmer suspended the entirety of all sentences.

Connor entered into a bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a period of two and a half years, during which time he is to refrain completely from alcohol and engage in addiction counselling.

However, that decision was overturned and the Court of Appeal ordered Connor to serve two and a half years but suspended the last year of that sentence.