Ballymun woman jailed for vicious attacks on two friends

by Gazette Reporter
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By Eimear Dodd

A woman who carried “vicious” assaults on two friends during two separate incidents has been handed a prison sentence.

Valerie McGovern (57) of Shangan Terrace, Ballymun, Dublin 9 pleaded guilty to two separate counts of causing harm to Patricia Nolan at Shangan Green, Santry on October 13, 2018 and to Aishling Groves at Whiteacre Place, Ballymun on August 29, 2020. She has eight previous convictions including for theft, criminal damage and public order offences.

Imposing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court  last week,Judge Elma Sheahan noted the “vicious nature of the attacks” carried out by McGovern against both victims. She said the psychological harm caused to the victims is not difficult to understand, given the nature of the physical injuries they sustained.

She handed McGovern a total sentence of four years and four months, with the final eight months suspended on strict conditions.

Garda David Jordan told Fiona Crawford BL, prosecuting, that McGovern and Ms Nolan had had a falling out in the weeks prior to the assault. Ms Nolan heard a knock on her door at 2.30am and saw another friend outside.

When she opened the door, McGovern was also there. She pulled the door open, then headbutted the victim. McGovern grabbed her by the hair and pulled her to the ground. Ms Nolan’s son came downstairs and attempted to pull McGovern off, but she banged the victim’s head against the ground. Ms Nolan’s thumb was also bitten during the attack.

When gardaí arrived, McGovern and the other friend had left the scene. Ms Nolan declined to go to hospital as she was afraid of what McGovern might do to her house. Photos and a report from a GP were handed to the court. Ms Nolan sustained multiple cuts to her face and bite marks to her thumb. 

A victim impact statement was handed in, but not read aloud in court. Ms Nolan has since moved away from Ballymun.

Gda Jordan agreed with defence counsel that no weapon was used in the attack on Ms Nolan. It was also confirmed that Ms Nolan made a statement later to say she “may” want to withdraw her complaint.

The Director of Public Prosecutions recommended summary disposal of this indictment, but jurisdiction was refused by the District Court. 

In relation to the assault in 2020, the court heard that the victim went to the house of a mutual friend and McGovern was in the kitchen.

Ms Groves asked McGovern if she had a problem with her. The investigating garda said the defendant then attacked Ms Groves like a “bleeding mad woman”. The court heard that McGovern had a kitchen knife in her hand, which she waved at the victim, who raised her hands to protect herself.

During the assault, McGovern attempted to slice Ms Groves’ face, before stabbing her on the right side of her neck. Ms Groves felt blood, then ran from the house and was followed by McGovern.

Ms Groves was taken to hospital and later required surgery. She spent 12 days in hospital, including three in intensive care and received 20 stitches to a cut to the back of her ear. She also sustained cuts to her hands and head.

A medical report and photos were handed to the court.  A victim impact statement was also submitted, but not read aloud.

The court heard Ms Groves was fearful following the incident as the defendant lives nearby. Ms Groves was undergoing medical treatment at the time, which had to be paused due to the assault.

McGovern was arrested and during interview, told gardaí that she acted in self-defence. An investigating garda said no complaint was made by McGovern at the scene, and there was no blood on her clothing.

McGovern was on bail for the assault in 2018 at the time of this incident.

The investigating garda agreed with Ronan Munro SC, defending, that the women’s relationship had deteriorated before this incident. He accepted that they had exchanged words and the owner of the property had left the house, where McGovern was sitting in the kitchen when Ms Groves entered.

He also agreed with Mr Munro that McGovern took hold of the knife in the spur of the moment. He accepted that both women had taken some drink on the day in question, and McGovern was still drinking when gardaí arrived. He also confirmed that there had been no contact between the parties since this incident. 

Mr Munro told the court that McGovern was previously in a relationship which involved domestic abuse. She has several children and supports her youngest son, who has ADHD and attended a special school.

Mr Munro said his client wished to apologise to the victims and is ashamed of her actions.  McGovern had a longstanding issue with alcohol, but has been sober for 14 months. She is engaging with the Star Project and a letter was handed into court.

McGovern left school at 14 and is also engaged in improving her literacy skills. She has never been in custody before and is scared by the prospect.

Judge Sheahan noted the mitigating factors include the guilty pleas, which spared the victims the need to come to court, the efforts made by McGovern to deal with her addiction and the absence of similar previous convictions.

She said that this offending represented a “significant escalation” in the defendant’s history.

Judge Sheahan said it is an aggravating factor in relation to the 2018 attack that it occurred in the victim’s home and imposed a two-year sentence.

Judge Sheahan imposed a sentence of two years and four months on the second incident, to run consecutive to the first sentence. She suspended the final eight months of the sentence on strict conditions including that McGovern place herself under the supervision of the Probation Service.

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