A Circuit Court judge has described some of the consequences for a victim of an unprovoked assault in Newport as ‘next to catastrophic’.
Judge Rory McCabe was speaking as he handed down a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence to Frank Long (46) of Barrack Hill, Newport, for a charge of assault causing serious harm to Kevin Staunton in Hotel Newport on July 8, 2018.
Whilst working as a night porter, Mr Staunton was assaulted as he escorted Mr Long from the premises and was left with an acquired brain injury.
Judge McCabe said Mr Staunton was ‘just doing his job’ and that there was ‘no possible justification for what happened’.
“The medical consequences were significant. The social and occupational consequences for Mr Staunton are next to catastrophic,” he said.
He added that to describe the consequences as life changing underestimates their full extent for Mr Staunton, a man with a ‘bright future’ who was working to fund his education.
He said a significant period of prison was ‘warranted and unavoidable’ and that he saw ‘no scope’ to suspend any of the sentence.
Garda Séamus Kelly told the court about the details of the 2018 incident.
Garda Kelly said that on the night, he went to the hotel after the Gardaí received a call at 4.30am. When he arrived, he found Kevin Staunton lying on the ground behind the reception desk. He said Mr Staunton appeared dazed and felt nauseous.
He said he spoke to Thomas Chambers, who worked part-time at the hotel. Mr Chambers said although he was not working on the night, he received a call from his father, George Chambers, at 4.07am. His father told him that Frank Long had been involved in an incident with a night porter, and he asked him check to see if the porter was okay.
Thomas Chambers went to the hotel and found Kevin Staunton lying injured on the ground, and he rang the emergency services.
‘Too much to drink’
Garda Kelly said he interviewed George Chambers later that day. He said that he and Frank Long had been drinking in the hotel, and that they had consumed ‘too much’ alcohol. George Chambers said that he fell asleep on a chair in the reception area, and that he recalls waking up and seeing Frank Long ‘wrestling with the night porter on the ground’ and that he went to intervene, before ringing his son.
On July 24, Garda Kelly took a formal statement from Kevin Staunton. Mr Staunton told him that two males were asleep in the reception area and that he went to wake them, telling them they could not sleep there.
He said he was walking to the door with Frank Long when Long grabbed him, threw him to the ground and started to punch him. He said he had no further recollection of the events after that.
CCTV footage of the incident was then shown to the court. It showed Mr Long wrestle Mr Staunton to the ground in the porch area as Mr Staunton was showing him to the door. Mr Long lay atop Mr Staunton and punched him for a sustained period of time, until Mr Chambers woke up and intervened. Mr Chambers then led Mr Long from the premises.
The footage then showed Mr Staunton getting up and appearing unsteady on his feet. He made his way to the reception desk, and some time after that, he appears to have lost consciousness, falling heavily from a chair onto the ground.
Garda Kelly said Mr Staunton was taken to Mayo University Hospital, where he underwent an emergency CT scan, which showed a bleed on his brain. Ultimately, Mr Staunton was left with an acquired brain injury.
Prosecuting counsel Pat Reynolds, BL, instructed by State Solicitor Vincent Deane, handed in six medical reports. The reports variously found that Mr Staunton suffers from ‘major’ short-term memory loss, concentration issues and sleep disturbance and that he continues to need anti-depressant medication. A report from a neurosurgeon said the force required to inflict the injuries was ‘very considerable’.
Accepts ‘full responsibility’
Defending counsel Des Dockery, SC, instructed by Diarmuid Connolly, BL, said his client is a 46-year-old single man with one adult son and no previous convictions. He said Frank Long works as a machinery driver. He said his client’s usual alcohol consumption on a night out would be ‘four or five pints’, and that on the night in question he had consumed ‘up to ten pints’.
He said his client accepted ‘full responsibility’ and that he had been instructed by his client to apologise to Mr Staunton and his family on his behalf. In a letter read to the court by Mr Dockery, Mr Long said he was ‘ashamed’ and added ‘I hope one day you can find it in your heart to forgive me’.
He said Mr Long had raised €10,000 for Mr Staunton as a ‘token’ for the ‘unprovoked and savage’ assault.
He told Judge Rory McCabe that his client had fallen into a pattern of binge drinking in previous years and that he had been diagnosed with depression in 2014.
He read out five character testimonials to the court, including one from Mr Long’s GP and one from a parish priest in Galway regarding what Mr Dockery described as Mr Long’s ‘difficult family circumstances’ in his younger years.