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Castlebar man’s one-punch attack left soldier with brain injury

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Ann Healy

The threat of a four-year prison sentence hangs over a Breaffy man who caused a life-threatening brain injury to a soldier following a one-punch assault outside a Galway city nightclub.
“No man should have to go through this ordeal due to another man’s actions.  I have a plate in my head for the rest of my life,” the emotional victim told Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Wednesday, July 3.  
The victim had returned to Ireland two weeks before the attack, after serving his country on a UN peace-keeping mission to Serbia.
“This has had a lasting and profound effect on, not alone me, but my family,” he said. “At no stage in the last 26 months has the defendant apologised to me or my family. He will never understand what we have gone through.”
Cian Cox (25), from Corheens, Breaffy, Castlebar, lay in wait for the soldier and ambushed him as he left Electric Garden nightclub, Abbeygate Street, Galway, in the early hours of May 5, 2017.
He pleaded guilty to assaulting the soldier, causing him serious harm when he first appeared before the court last February for trial. The matter was adjourned to two weeks ago, when Cox brought €5,000 ‘as a token of his remorse’ into court for the victim.
A further €5,000 was brought to court at last week’s sitting, which the victim accepted.

Altercation
Garda Paul Gahan told the sentence hearing that on the night of the attack, the victim had earlier been in an altercation with a number of other males in the night-club.  Several of them, including Cox, were ejected by security, while the soldier was kept inside until the other males left the area.
However, Cox waited outside, and when the victim came out and was crossing the street in the direction of Market Street, he followed him and hit him one blow with a closed fist into the back of the head.
The victim never saw the punch coming, and Cox fled the scene after he fell to the ground. Cox was apprehended by security and was later arrested and brought to Galway Garda Station where he readily admitted to his involvement during interview.
“During interview, [Cox] said he found ‘the whole thing disgusting’ and that he had never hit anyone before in his life,” Garda Gahan added.

Part of skull removed
The victim sustained a fracture to the right side of his skull and was transferred to Beaumont Hospital for life-saving surgery to relieve pressure on his brain caused by an extensive bleed. He read his own victim impact statement into evidence.
He said he had spent 19 days in Beaumont, and was in a coma for 12 of those days.  His sister had flown home from Australia, as the family feared he might die.
Part of his skull – from behind his right ear, up to the top of his head and down to the nape of his neck – had to be removed entirely to relieve the pressure on his brain. He showed the visible scars to Judge Rory McCabe on request.
The skull bone that was removed was ‘stored’ in the victim’s abdomen to preserve it, so that it could be reinstated once the brain swelling subsided. After the skull bone was reinstated, the victim was sent to the National Rehabilitation Unit in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Four operations
While in the Rehab, the victim developed a serious infection. His body had rejected the reinstated bone.
He underwent another operation to have the infected bone removed, and over 60 stitches were used to hold his scalp in place over the exposed brain tissue.
The victim said he had a fourth operation to have a plate fitted to the gaping hole in his skull.  He had to wait weeks for that operation as the plate had to be made in Switzerland.
Six months after the attack, he finished his rehabilitation in Dún Laoghaire and was allowed home.  
“It was excruciating to have over 60 stitches put in and removed from my skull during four operations. I was told I might get a stroke, be left paralysed on one side or die before each operation,” he said.
He missed out on two overseas missions, as he was unable to return to work for eleven months, which was also a financial loss. Has has only recently been given the all-clear to travel.
Cian Cox read a written apology aloud. In it, he said he couldn’t imagine the pain and anguish he had put his victim through and said that if he could take on the pain for him he would.
The victim told Judge McCabe he would not accept Cox’s apology.
Weighing the case, the judge took the defendant’s early plea, genuine expression of remorse, current employment and positive probation report as mitigating factors. He placed the appropriate sentence at four years. He agreed to adjourn finalisation of sentence to November 22.