Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

A FATHER-of-two who punched a stranger in the face, fracturing his cheekbone, has been given a suspended sentence.

Colin O’Kelly, with an address in Newcastle Manor Square, Newcastle, had been attending a funeral when he punched Dominic O’Keefe, who had been attending a wedding, in the face twice in the early hours of the morning.

O’Kelly (36) pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Mr O’Keefe at Finnstown Castle Hotel in Lucan on May 1, 2015.

Handing down a two-year suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Patricia Ryan said it was a violent offence that had consequences for the victim.

She took into account several mitigating factors, including that O’Kelly has no previous convictions, has never come to the attention of gardai before, has expressed “deep remorse” and is currently caring for his seriously-ill child.

Sergeant Damien Gannon told Gerardine Small BL, prosecuting, that the victim arrived at the hotel with his wife around 2.30am after attending a wedding.

He said there were a couple of men standing at the door and he said hello and there was a bit of “banter” before one of the men suddenly punched him in the face.

As Mr O’Keefe was falling to the ground, the man struck him to the face again. Mr O’Keefe wanted to call gardai immediately but said his wife was too upset. He returned to Cork, where he lives, and underwent surgery in Cork University Hospital.

He sustained a fracture to his cheekbone and was unable to eat solid foods for three weeks. He was also out of work for six weeks, which he believed led to his recently-opened restaurant going under.

In a victim impact statement handed up to court, he said he had put his “heart and soul” into the new business.

O’Kelly was interviewed by gardai months after the incident after he was identified on CCTV footage at the hotel. He made immediate admissions when interviewed and said he was extremely embarrassed by his behaviour.

Defence barrister, Barry Ward BL, said O’Kelly felt threatened by Mr O’Keefe and punched him accordingly, but that in the “cold light of day” he realised there was no basis for that premise.

A letter was handed up to court from the hotel saying O’Kelly was a regular patron there and such behaviour from him was completely out of character. He has no previous convictions.

Mr Ward said O’Kelly has two daughters, the youngest of whom was born some months after the incident and who suffers from a serious undiagnosed condition. She requires 24-hour care and O’Kelly gave up his job to help care for her along with his wife.

Mr Ward said O’Kelly’s financial situation was difficult, but a friend has given him a loan of €3,000 to give to Mr O’Keefe as an expression of his remorse. This was accepted by the court.

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