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Soldier jailed for glass attack that ended player's dream of call-up to senior Dubs squad

Man smashed glass into victim’s face in toilet queue

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Victim Aaron Duffy was attacked with a glass out of the blue

Victim Aaron Duffy was attacked with a glass out of the blue

Victim Aaron Duffy was attacked with a glass out of the blue

A man who pleaded guilty to glassing a promising Dublin GAA player in the eye in a nightclub, ending his dream of playing with the senior team, has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Stephen Howe was 22 when he smashed the glass into 19-year-old Aaron Duffy's face while both men were in a line for the toilets at the Wrights Cafe Bar in Swords, Dublin, on December 23, 2017.

Mr Duffy had to undergo surgery to treat a "severe perforation" and prolapse of his left eye.

The attack had a massive detrimental effect on him, resulting in the end of a long-term relationship, the ending of his dream to play with the Dublin senior team, and treatment for depression and self harm.

His work as a plumber also suffered.

Scar

A medical report from September 2018 stated his eye had satisfactory vision but that there was a permanent scar to the cornea.

Howe, of Brookdale Road, Rivervalley, Swords, had been on bail for a drink-driving offence at the time of the attack.

At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, counsel for Howe appealed to judge Elma Sheahan to show leniency, saying he would lose his job with the British army if given a custodial sentence.

Counsel said the accused had been devastated by the words in Mr Duffy's victim impact statement, and had a serious conversation with his own father afterwards on how to change his life.

Ultimately he applied to join the British army, which led to repercussions from his friends.

Howe had gone on to serve in Kabul, where he was injured, and had since self-harmed with a knife, the court heard.

A lieutenant from the British army was in court to verify that Howe would lose his position if given a custodial sentence.

Judge Sheahan said the maximum sentence was five years, and that the evidence was Mr Duffy was in the queue for the toilet minding his own business, and the evidence from the CCTV footage appeared to show a jovial and pleasant atmosphere, which changed when Howe suddenly attacked Mr Duffy with a glass.

"One cannot but be moved by the fact that the victim had worked since he was a boy to play for the senior Dublin team," she said.

She added that the attack was a "gratuitous and mindless act of violence".

Judge Sheahan said the fact that Howe could serve in the British army was evidence that he could be held responsible for his actions.

In mitigation, she took Howe's guilty plea, remorse, offer of compensation, hospital admission for self-harm, and his job with the British army into consideration.

But she said the attack was at the highest level of offending.

With mitigating elements, Judge Sheahan said a sentence of three years and six months, with the last six months suspended, was to be handed down.

Risk

In his own victim impact statement read previously to the court, Mr Duffy said the assault had changed his life.

He said a week earlier he had played his best match ever for the Dublin under-21s Gaelic football team.

He said after the assault doctors told him that he couldn't play football for a year and that it would always pose a risk.

Mr Duffy said his dream to play with the team was taken away after years of hard work and effort.

The next season was the first time he didn't make the team and he began to self-harm for the first time in his life.

He said a six-year happy relationship fell apart, and he was treated for PTSD and depression.