Part of Clonmel man's ear bitten off in vicious assault, court told 

Clonmel Courthouse

Part of a Clonmel man's ear was bitten off by one of two men who assaulted him when he left his house after a glass bottle was fired through his window, Clonmel Circuit Court heard. 

The horrific injury was sustained by Patrick Lonergan, who was assaulted and harmed by Anthony Keating, aged 50, of 30 Morrisons Road, Waterford and Stephen Fox of Chalet No. 4 Marlfield, Clonmel outside his home at Mountain View, Marlfield on March 28, 2016. 

Fox, who was not the primary aggressor in the assault, was sentenced to four years in prison with the final two and a half years suspended for assaulting and harming Patrick Lonergan and assaulting Mr Lonergan's brother Martin. He pleaded guilty to both offences. 

The case against Keating, who bit Mr Lonergan's ear, was further adjourned by Judge Tom Teehan to Nenagh District Court on March 6.

Both defendants gave undertakings to the court that Patrick Lonergan and his brother Martin had nothing to fear from them in the future. 

Gda. Michael Costello told the court that at approximately 10.30pm on March 28, 2016, Patrick Lonergan was sitting in his home when he heard a front window of the house smashing. He went outside to see what happened and brought a leg of a chair with him. He saw Stephen Fox and Anthony Keating, whom he knew.  

He accused Keating of breaking his window and Keating punched him twice. Keating alleged Mr Lonergan then hit him with the leg of the chair. Patrick Lonergan was dragged across the street .  Patrick Lonergan stated that Keating held him down and bit him in the right ear. Stephen Fox punched and kicked Mr Lonergan when he was on the ground. Mr Lonergan's brother Martin arrived and tried to break up the incident. Martin Lonergan sustained an injury to his hand inflicted by Stephen Fox. Martin Lonergan moved his brother from the scene and the gardai were contacted.  Patrick Lonergan was brought to South Tipperary General Hospital and Cork University Hospital. 

Gda. Costello recounted that Keating pleaded not guilty to assaulting Mr Lonergan and causing him serious bodily harming but he was convicted of the offence at the conclusion of a three day trial in the Circuit Court last July. Keating pleaded guilty to damaging Mr Lonergan's window. 

Judge Teehan was told Stephen Fox did not throw the bottle that instigated the incident but admitted punching and kicking Patrick Lonergan on the ground and also injuring his brother Martin when he intervened.

Gda. Costello read Patrick Lonergan's Victim Impact Statement to the court.  It outlined that as well as the ear injury, Mr Lonergan's left eye was closed for a number of days and he suffered bruising to his face and all over his body. He was kicked badly in the groin and he passed blood for a number of days after the attack. 

Mr Lonergan described how the incident had an awful impact on his life. He was unable to sleep easy since the incident and was in fear on a daily basis. He didn't go out at night and locked the doors and windows of his house at all times. He was afraid to be in his own house. Prior to the attack his seven year old grandson stayed with him but now he was afraid for him to stay.

Mr Lonergan added that his house had been egged and he had received a number of phone calls threatening him and his family.

A medical report read to the court detailed how Mr Lonergan lost a section of his right ear and was on a waiting list for reconstructive surgery at CUH. The scarring and deformity of his ear were permanent. He suffered significant psychological trauma, was unable to return to work and was self conscious about his ear.

The court heard that Keating had 15 previous convictions dating from 2016 to the 1980s ranging from public order offences, burglary and criminal damage to assault. Fox had four previous convictions and served a prison sentence that expired in 2007.

Defence counsel Justin Dillon SC for Keating said his client wasn't in the best shape and intellectually he wasn't altogether coherent up to the time of the trial last July. After the trial, his client was admitted to the Remar Recovery Home at Coalbrook, Thurles to deal with his drug and alcohol addiction problems. His condition had improved immeasurably since he has been in this calm environment and was successfully coping with overcoming his addictions.   

Mr Dillon said his client had written a letter stating he was sorry for his actions. He assured the court he recognised the seriousness of the situation he was in; that there would be no further confrontation and that he was trying to change his life. He requested a chance to continue on his treatment programme and to continue to change his life. 

The senior counsel pointed out that Keating underwent a hip operation a few weeks ago and he was currently on crutches. He requested Judge Teehan to defer sentencing him to allow him continue his physical recovery from the operation to enable him deal with the rigors of prison. 

Anthony Keating told the court Patrick and Martin Lonergan had nothing to fear from him in the future and he was very sorry for what he had done. He gave an undertaking to pay compensation to Mr Lonergan. Stressing his commitment to change his life, he said: "I don't want my child to end up like me in prison and fighting drugs and drink addiction." 

Vaun Scarborough of the Remar Recovery Home said the rehabilitation programme lasted a year and Keating was staying at the Centre.  The physical issues of Keating's addiction had left and he was now dealing very positively with anger and anxiety issues. He said Keating was a positive and calming influence for new people at the Centre and the community as a whole. 

Stephanie Keating said she had known Keating since childhood and he stayed at her home for a while before entering Remar when a bed became available after the trial last summer. She described him as completely different since he became sober and stopped using drugs. His thought process had changed and she believed his tendency to violence was gone. He was reading the bible and trying to live by it and questioned the type of life he led up to now.  She outlined that Keating had a partner and young child, who live in Clonmel. When asked what was the likelihood of Keating re-offending, she replied nearly zero if he remained clean of drugs and sober. 

Barrister Philip Sheahan SC, representing Fox, said that day Stephen Fox was in a house in Marlfeld having dinner with Anthony Keating and their two partners. Mr Keating's behaviour became erratic and he was invited to leave shortly before the incident happened.

Stephen Fox was taking Mr Keating out of the house when a glass bottle was thrown by Anthony Keating through Mr Lonergan's window. It was clear that his client was not the instigator or the main aggressor in this incident. He was involved in a situation that was not of his making and responded to circumstances unfolding before him. It was an instantaneous decision to get involved.  He moved to assist Mr Keating and tried to break things up. He did admit to kicking Patrick Lonergan while on the ground and had entered a plea.

Mr Sheehan described how Fox had been employed by Medite prior to setting up his own timber business from 2011 to 2015,  which he had to cease because of an injury. Two character reference letters from Medite company representatives were handed into the court. 

He described Fox as a well motivated, trustworthy and reliable individual, who had , barring two minor mishaps and now this incident, moved on with his life since his release from prison eleven years ago.

He was in a stable relationship and was hoping to re-engage with the employment market.

The barriester asked Judge Teehan to deal with Fox in a non-custodial manner and suggested he would better serve the community through voluntary work as part of a rehabilitation process.

Marlfield Village Committee Secretary Bernard Lennon told the court Stephen Fox offered his time, labour and expertise  on a voluntary basis to the group who were involved in enhancing the village.

He said Fox played an important role in cleaning up the village after significant tree damage during Storm Ophelia. He cleared and removed trees and made the place safe as well as working on a popular looped walk amenity in the area. He described Fox as a pleasant, willing  and marvellous worker.

The court heard that Mr Lonergan refused to accept Fox's apology because he believed it was not genuine.

Sentencing Fox, JudgeTeehan said the defendant was given a chance in the courts before by receiving community service in lieu of a prison sentence and the primary victim of this "vicious assault" Patrick Lonergan cannot have the quiet enjoyment of his home which every Irish citizen wasw entitled to.

Judge Teehan said taking everything into consideration it was not possible for him to consider a non-custodial sentence for Stephen Fox. 

In relation to Keating, he said intended deferring the commencement of his sentence for a short time to allow him further recover from the hip operation. He remanded Keating on bail to appear before Nenagh Circuit Cou