Young woman was so badly beaten her friends did not recognise her

October 27, 2022

A man who beat his girlfriend so badly that she was unrecognisable to friends, a court has heard.

Nicole Harrison said she feared for her life during the attack by former boyfriend Derek McGinley.

McGinley pleaded guilty to two counts of assault causing harm to Ms Harrison, now 19.

McGinley, a 21-year-old of Windmill View in Letterkenny, was before Letterkenny Circuit Court this week.

Doctors said the attacks on July 14th 2019 and again on January 11, 202) were so severe it had the ‘potential to have been lethal’

In the first case, a medical report said, the victim suffered injuries that were ‘consistent with a serious assault’ and that she had received ‘multiple separate blows’.

Doctors confirmed that the attack was ‘a serious assault with the potential to have been lethal’.

On the second occasion, Ms Harrison was ‘kicked and punched all over’ and suffered a significant broken arm, which required surgery. Doctors described this as a ‘significant assault’.

Garda Josephine McGinty told the court that she attended an address at Fairgreen Park on January 11, 2020 following the report of an alleged assault on a female.

Ms Harrison told Gardai that she was assaulted by McGinley. Ms Harrison said McGinley had been messaging her earlier that day while she was out shopping with her mother.

McGinley arrived into a room in the house, where Ms Harrison was. McGinley had slapped her on the face, she said. Outside, McGinley grabbed Ms Harrison by the hair before kicking her from behind. After helping Ms Harrison to her feet, McGinley punched her with a closed fist. Gardaí heard that McGinley punched his victim ‘all over the body.

Ms Harrison, the court heard, was ‘pouring blood’ from her nose and lip.

Ms Harrison informed Gardaí of a prior incident, on July 14, 2019. On the night of the accused’s birthday party, he and Ms Harrison were at a friend’s apartment afterwards when McGinley grabbed her phone and smashed it. “Derek started punching me with a closed fist all over,” Ms Harrison told Gardaí.

Another man pulled McGinley off his victim and she left to see with a friend. She told Gardaí that she had not reported the incident at the time as she was ‘scared’ of McGinley.

McGinley was arrested by Detective Garda Derek Connaughton on January 13, 2020. He made no admissions when interviewed three times at Letterkenny Garda Station. The court heard that McGinley has been in custody since April 1, 2022 after presenting himself at Letterkenny Garda Station at the time.

Ms Harrison took to the stand to bravely read out a victim impact statement in front of McGinley.

The attack, she said, left her ‘unrecognisable’.

“The nurse stated that she had never seen anything as severe,” she said. A metal plate and a bar had to be inserted to Ms Harrison’s arm due to the severity of her injuries, which necessitated the use of a cast for six weeks.

Ms Harrison told how she had to undergo a procedure on her nose in Sligo and how she still has difficulty in breathing properly.

“I still suffer from the damage done to my arm,” Ms Harrison said. “I can’t lift heavy things due to pain. I can’t participate in activities due to the life-long damage I received.”

Ms Harrison told how she battles from depression and anxiety and has suffered a lot of panic attacks.

The effects of the incident caused her to miss her college exams in January, placing her under added stress.

“Basic daily acts have been difficult and unfulfilling,” Ms Harrison said. “I was in complete shock and scared for my life. I felt weak and scared. My spirit was completely drained and I lost contact with my closest friends. I felt very alone and depressed.

“All that kept playing in my head was ‘this is me and I am going to die’. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to watch my nephew grow up.

“I couldn’t go shopping on my own and even when there was someone there, I was constantly looking over my shoulders.

“I felt absolutely broken, shattered and drained. There are still certain triggers, such as loud shouting or banging, which leaves me feeling as if I am living through it all again.

“I felt insecure and embarrassed. I always felt that I was strong minded and no-one could break me into pieces. I had to figure out who I am. I lost myself in who I was.”

Ms Harrison said she used to enjoy kickboxing, but the attack has left her unable to compete. She said she is determined to continue to engage in counselling services ‘in the hope that the impact will lessen over time’.

Barrister for McGinley, Mr Simon Gillespie, said his client ‘knows the weight of regret and remorse’. McGinley submitted a letter to the court to be given to the victim.

Mr Gillespie said his client voluntarily surrendered himself to Gardai and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. McGinley had been working in Scotland until returning home earlier this year and has been offered employment in Donegal.

“He has changed for the better since being incarcerated,” Mr Gillespie said. “He has owned up to his actions and wants to avoid causing any more trauma.”

Mr Gillespie told the court that McGinley’s life was ‘spiralling out of control due to addiction with alcohol and drugs’ at the time.

“There were feelings of jealousy and anger due to the relationship ending,” Mr Gillespie said, adding that McGinley was supported by his family.

A probation and welfare report placed McGinley at a moderate risk of reoffending.

Mr Gillespie asked Judge John Aylmer to consider a non-custodial sentence and asked the court to consider McGinley’s remorse.

Judge Aylmer adjourned the case until Friday, October 28, for sentencing.