By Sonya McLean
A woman who launched a “frightening, vicious and unprovoked” attack on a fellow attendee of a Westlife concert 18 months ago has avoided a jail term.
Jackie Walsh (26) split the victim’s ear lobe during the attack after her earring got caught up when Walsh was pulling fistfuls of the woman’s hair. The victim said during the assault she could feel blood pouring down her face and could see clumps of her hair all over her shorts.
The victim, who didn’t make a victim impact statement because she is currently going through a severe bout of depression, was treated by a doctor at the concert.
Her ear lobe was stitched up and she was given an anaesthetic. While she complained of an extreme headache for days after the attack, she didn’t require further treatment.
Walsh of Clonard Park, Ballybeg, Co Waterford, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm at Croke Park Stadium on July 5, 2019. She has no previous convictions and has not come to garda attention since.
Judge Melanie Greally said the “facts speak for themselves” and described it as “a frightening, vicious and unprovoked assault which had immediate consequences for the victim”.
She said testimonials before the court indicate that Walsh’s behaviour was “entirely out of character” and she was not normally a person who was “inclined to engage in violent conduct”.
Judge Greally accepted evidence from Detective Sergeant Stephen Coleman that Walsh was heavily intoxicated on the night and genuinely didn’t recall the assault, which started after the victim indicated that Walsh was sitting in her (the victim) boyfriend’s seat.
The judge acknowledged that Walsh was a bright young woman with plenty of potential. She noted that she has mental health difficulties, which she was addressing before the assault and which she continues to address.
Judge Greally sentenced Walsh to two and half years in prison which she suspended in full on condition that she undergo 12 months’ Probation Supervision. She acknowledged that Walsh had saved €3,000 as a token of remorse for the victim who is willing to accept it. She ordered that the money be transferred to the victim within a week.
Det Sgt Coleman told Siobhán Ní Chúlacháin BL, prosecuting, that the victim had not been drinking during the concert and her boyfriend had just gone to get her a burger when Walsh fell into his seat.
She turned to tell Walsh that it was her boyfriend’s place when the woman attacked her by first grabbing her head and two fistfuls of her hair. She pushed her into the group sitting in front of her and punched her a number of times in the head.
Walsh was arrested at the stadium during which she continued to be verbally abusive to gardaí. She was released on bail but came to the garda station voluntarily the following September during which she identified herself on CCTV footage and took responsibility for the assault.
She said she didn’t remember anything about the incident and admitted she had been drinking heavily.
Det Sgt Coleman agreed with David Perry BL, defending, that Walsh genuinely had no recollection of the assault.
Mr Perry said his client had written a letter of remorse to the court and a letter of apology to the victim.
He handed in a number of other letters written on behalf of Walsh which stated that her behaviour on the night was out of character.
Counsel said his client had a difficult childhood and had mental health issues as a result. She had been dealing with them at the time of the assault but was still abusing alcohol. She has since begun to address her difficulties “in a very serious and profound way”, Mr Perry submitted.
He said Walsh is “embarrassed, mortified and ashamed” of her behaviour on the night after she had drunk so much alcohol to the point of “blackout”.