Girl hit in face with hatchet suffered horrific injuries

Published 30/07/2016 | 00:00

Nicole Dwyer pictured in hospital after the assault last year.
Nicole Dwyer pictured in hospital after the assault last year.

A 25-year-old Wexford town man who assaulted a girl with a hatchet leaving her with serious facial injuries has been jailed for three years, with the final six months suspended.

James Byrne, with addresses in court documents of 48 The Faythe, and also of 29 School Street, pleaded guilty to assaulting Nicole Dwyer on January 12, 2015, at 17 The Green, Clonard.

He also pleaded guilty to producing a hatchet in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person, and which is capable of inflicting serious injury.

Wexford Circuit Criminal Court was told by Det. Garda Colm Dunne that on the occasion Nicole Dwyer was asleep on the couch, while her boyfriend and another person were also present the house at 17 The Green, Clonard.

He told prosecuting counsel Sinead Gleeson that one of the people in the house went outside to make a phone call when Byrne arrived in a car accompanied by a woman. Before entering the house, he went to the back of the car, took out a hatchet and placed it in a bag. There was some question that he was owed money by an occupant of the house at that time.

Det. Garda Dunne also said that in discussions relating to the money owed, Byrne said he would take the TV set. He then took the hatchet out of a bag and started swinging it, before bringing it down on the couch where Nicole Dwyer was sleeping. The hatchet came down on the side of her face, he said.

The defendant then left the house and an ambulance was called. When the gardai arrived they located a timber-handled hatchet and some bin liners. The area was subsequently cordoned off and declared a crime scene for technical examination.

Det. Garda Dunne said that at about 7p.m. they rang the defendant and told him that the gardai needed to speak to him in relation to an incident. Byrne arrived at the gard station by arrangement where he was arrested and interviewed.

'The timber handled hatchet and bin liners were shown to him. He admitted hitting her [Nicole Dwyer] but was not aware she was asleep on the couch. He said it was an accident,' Det. Garda Dunne told the court.

Describing the injuries, Det. Garda Dunne said Nicole Dwyer received two breaks to her jawbone, for which she has received a considerable amount of treatment, while also having had a plate inserted. She also received 58 stitches to her face, both inside and outside, leaving her with a permanent scar.

Det. Garda Dunne told the court that the defendant had previous convictions.

In a Victim Impact Statement read into the court by Det. Garda Dunne on behalf of Ms Dwyer, she said: 'I suffer from stress and post traumatic disorder as a result of this. When I walk along I keep my hand over my face to cover the scar. My life has changed forever and I hope he gets what he deserves, as nothing in the world will make up for what he did to me. N

'Now I always have to have someone with me whenever I go out. I also had six teeth replaced, 58 stitches, 2 metals plates in my jaw which was broken in two places. I am also left with a permanent scar on my face.'

Defence Counsel, Sarah Phelan, said the defendant volunteered to go to the gards station and admitted his full part in this incident. The reason he went to the house with a hatchet was not to assault the victim, as it was a complete accident. It was a case of Ms Dwyer being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

She said her client apologised to the injured party and is horrified for what happened on the night.

Ms Phelan asked the court to take into account when James Byrne entered the house he did not have any intention of injuring Nicole Dwyer. The injured party will have to live with this for many years to come and the defendant very much accepts the error of his ways on the evening in question.

She said that the defendant has a young son but, unfortunately, owing to the matters before the court is no longer in a relationship with the mother. Byrne started taking drugs at 13 years of age, progressing to harder drugs and alcohol. He suffers from ADHD and when this is combined with drinking alcohol, it can lead to him committing offences. He is not employed but has worked as a carpenter and plasterer in the past.

Ms Phelan asked the court to take into account the conclusions and recommendations in the Probation an Welfare report. The defendant would undertake to compensate the victim, but given his unemployment record he is not in a position to do that at the moment, However, if the court was agreeable, he would undertake this. He has attended in Aiseiri in Kilkenny in relation to his problems and got on well and was out of trouble for two and half years once he abstained from alcohol and drugs. She asked the court to give him a chance to undertake therapy and stay out of trouble.

Describing Ms Dwyer's injuries as 'hofrrific', Judge Barry Hickson said said that in all that he heard, what he had not been told is why this young lady got struck with the hatchet in the first place.

He accepted that the defendant did not realise the young lady was on the couch but his action inflicted severe damage. A pretty girl's face has been permanently scarred, with six teeth removed and two metal plates in her jaw, all at the age of only 21.

'It was a cowardly act, and that's what you are. You have done untold damage both physically and to the wellbeing of Ms Dwyer, a young girl of 21 years of age.' said Judge Hickson.

The defendant told the Judge that he was sorry.

'Sorry is no use. This young lady could have been killed,' said Judge Hickson.

The Judge imposed a three-year custodial sentence on each count, to run concurrently, with the final six months on each suspended, on the defendant entering into a bond of €100 to keep the peace for a period of five years on his release from custody.

Wexford People

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