A teenager who repeatedly punched a man who was trying to rob a greeting card from his local newsagent has been jailed for 18 months for the “savage” and “despicable” vigilante attack.
The victim in the case - 20-year-old Christopher Palmer - died five days after the 2018 attack from a drug overdose, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today. His death was not linked to the assault.
Josh Henney (18), with an address in North William St, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of violent disorder at Day Today newsagents on Ballybough Road, Dublin on November 11, 2018. He was 16 years old at the time of the incident.
The court heard that Henney was the “ringleader” of a group of boys who turned on Mr Palmer when he stuffed a greeting card down his trousers and tried to leave their local newsagents without paying for it.
CCTV footage shown to the court showed Henney pushing Mr Palmer back into the shop with the front wheel of his bike, before he punched him repeatedly to the head, dragged him outside the shop and kicked him as he lay on the ground.
“It is without doubt disturbing viewing, demonstrating a thuggish brutality against a defenceless young man,” Judge Elma Sheahan said of the CCTV footage as she sentenced Henney today.
She noted Mr Palmer was “helpless on the floor” during the “despicable and unprovoked” attack as Henney continued to punch and kick him.
“The accused, at the age of 16, set himself and his friends up as vigilantes, distributing justice with punches and kicks,” the judge said.
She noted Henney returned to the scene more than once when Mr Palmer was lying on the ground “to inflict further savage assaults”.
And she rejected the defence submission that Henney has shouldered the burden of the assault for the last two years, noting he has failed to cooperate with the Probation Service and has come to garda attention since then.
“He had the opportunity in the aftermath of this offending to demonstrate his distress and show rehabilitation by keeping a clean sheet and cooperating with the probation service,” the judge said.
She handed down a two year sentence but suspended the final six months on a number of conditions.
Detective Garda Kevin Keyes told the court that eight teenagers were present at the shop on the day in question when Mr Palmer tried to steal the greeting card.
Four teens, including Henney, took part in the assault. The other three were dealt with in the Children Court.
During the attack, Mr Palmer was saying “sorry” for attempting to steal the card as the teenagers dragged him outside, the court heard.
After the assault, Mr Palmer met his mother in town, where she observed he was very pale and had significant bruising to his temple as well as scratch marks on his face. Mr Palmer died five days later from a drug overdose.
On the day of his death, his grandmother contacted gardaí about the assault and an investigation commenced. Henney was identified by gardaí from the CCTV footage.
Cathal McGreal BL, defending, said his client had a troubled childhood. The court heard Henney goes by his mother's surname as his father and uncles are known criminals in the north inner city area. He witnessed his father being shot when he was a child.
His mother struggled with drug addiction but has since overcome it and is now a “positive influence” on her son, counsel said. She and Henney's girlfriend were in court for sentencing.
Mr McGreal urged Judge Sheahan to consider a non-custodial sentence, given Henney's youth and his hopes to start a training programme with the aim of becoming a mechanic.