Assault Causing Harm –
Assault Causing Harm
Tom was assaulted in his community early on a Saturday morning. Cormac was walking home highly intoxicated having been drinking from early the previous evening and through the night. Tom, who was born in another country but lived in Ireland for many years, was walking towards Cormac on his way to work that day when Cormac began to make insulting remarks relating to Tom’s nationality. When asked to stop, Cormac assaulted Tom causing bruising to his face and a cut to the side of his eye, and breaking his glasses.
The Gardaí were called to the scene where Cormac was noted to be severely intoxicated and was ultimately arrested. Tom made a statement and Cormac, who had no previous convictions, was charged. He pleaded guilty to Section 3 Assault Causing Harm at the first opportunity, at which point the District Court referred the matter to an NGO that delivers restorative justice.
Cormac met with the restorative justice Caseworker to discuss the offence and undertake an assessment regarding his suitability of restorative justice. Cormac expressed remorse for what happened. He took full responsibility for his actions and expressed his willingness to make amends and apologise.
The Caseworker also met with Tom, asking him what happened and what he would like to see happen next, and inviting him to participate in the process to the extent he felt comfortable. Tom explained that the incident had made him more distrustful of people and that he felt isolated within the community. He had lost money as he had had to pay for the repair of his glasses and some medical expenses. His financial losses amounted to €350. Tom did not wish to sit down with Cormac for a face-to-face meeting, but he was satisfied to see Cormac participate in a reparation panel and for his views and desired reparation to form a part of the discussion. In particular, Tom wished to see Cormac address his relationship with alcohol and undertake some voluntary work in the community. He was also happy to accept a written apology.
The case was considered suitable to proceed to a reparation panel as Cormac had expressed his remorse and willingness to make reparation, while Tom had also expressed his satisfaction for matters to proceed as such. A panel was convened, attended by Cormac, the NGO Caseworker, and a local Garda and two community volunteers who were trained to participate in restorative meetings. At the meeting, Cormac was asked to explain what had happened and to consider who had been affected by his actions and how.
Cormac spoke about drinking heavily the night before the assault and that he was extremely sorry for what had happened. He did not know Tom personally and only knew him “to see” as they lived in the same town. He said that many of his friends were of different nationalities and that he did not understand why he had shouted such comments. At no point did Cormac deny responsibility for the offence or harm. Tom’s views were then presented to the meeting by the Caseworker and the Garda also gave an account of what had happened.
On hearing Tom’s point of view, Cormac said that he was extremely sorry for what happened and that he felt very ashamed to have caused such distress to Tom. He said that he was very embarrassed by the incident and admitted that he had been drinking heavily in the months prior to the offence. He had dropped out of his training course and could not find a job. The community volunteers discussed the impact of the offence on Tom and the community with Cormac. The impact and role of alcohol was also discussed.
Cormac was asked what needed to happen next, and he agreed to complete a series of actions to make amends for his actions. He agreed to undertake the following:
- Write a letter of apology to Tom
- Meet with Drug and Alcohol Services for assessment, education and/or counselling, as deemed appropriate by the service provider.
- Repay €350 to Tom for his financial losses because of the assault.
- Investigate training courses that might interest him.
- Volunteer 30 hours with the local Tidy Towns group.
During an agreed period, Cormac completed all of the above tasks. The Caseworker stayed in contact with Tom and Cormac, and Tom was kept informed of Cormac’s progress. Tom received the compensation and letter of apology. A report was provided to the District Court detailing the restorative process, the agreement reached and the reparative tasks undertaken. Following consideration by the Judge, the matter was ultimately dealt with by means of Section 1(1) of the Probation of Offenders Act, and no further sanction or conviction were imposed.
Following the completion of the matter in Court, the NGO Caseworker liaised with both parties to communicate the outcome. Tom reported satisfaction with the opportunity to participate and to have a say in what happened. He hoped that Cormac had learned from what happened and that it would not happen again to someone else in the community. Cormac was satisfied that the reparation actions were fair and that he had the opportunity to apologise.