UK Update

Five men spared jail following ‘violent’ group attack on Dublin friends after night out

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Vasilii Birca (32) of Drumcondra Road Lower, Dublin; Ion Mustesta (19) of Walnut View, Dublin 16; Gheorge Onila (32) of Wellington Raod, Dublin 6; Nicanor Ionas (29) of Beechdale, Dunboyne, Co Meath and Ion Soponari (24) also of Beechdale, Dunboyne. Co Meath pleaded guilty to one count each of affray at Golden Lane, Dublin, on April 3, 2022. None of them have any previous convictions in Ireland or any other jurisdiction.

Garda Colm McCarthy told Laura Cunningham, BL, prosecuting, that a couple (husband and wife), and a friend, were out socialising in Dublin City when they saw an altercation between a man and a woman at approximately 2am, and they intervened to help the woman. The male of the couple was assaulted in the process.

The court heard that the couple and their friend began to move away from the man who then began following them and talking on his mobile phone. A group of five men then approached the victims. The woman was pushed to the ground, and her partner called the gardaí.

While he was on the phone to gardaí, the woman’s husband was knocked to the ground and assaulted. He believes he was in and out of consciousness. When he tried to get up, he saw a garda car coming toward him. When the gardaí arrived, he noticed his mobile phone was missing.

The woman said a group of males ran towards her husband and their friend. She saw the group start to punch and kick them. She asked both men if they were okay, but they did not respond, and they were not moving.

Her husband was brought to the hospital, and x-rays showed he had fractures to his wrist and nose. He also sustained bruising to the body. The woman had two black, swollen eyes and nose pain. Their friend required five stitches to his chin and felt intense pain in his face.

Another witness who saw the assault from her apartment said there was an initial altercation between the woman’s husband and a man, and then a number of other men arrived. The men carried out a “violent’ attack on the husband and his friend, which she said lasted for about 30 seconds. The men then fled to a nearby van, which the witness took a photograph of.

The woman was able to track her husband’s phone, and the van was stopped by the gardaí. Six men in total were found in the van: the five accused and the man who was involved in the original altercation. Her husband’s phone was also found in the van,

Gda McGrath said that during interview, the five men said they had been contacted by a friend who said he had been assaulted. When they arrived at the scene, they saw their friend, the man who had been involved in the original altercation was bleeding. They believed they were coming to help their friend and got involved in a fight with the two friends.

All five men who made admissions to the gardaí said they were unhappy that their friend misled them. The five men have offered €26,000 in compensation to the injured parties in this case. They have offered apologies to the injured parties and shown genuine remorse.

The court heard that the probation reports for all five men put them at low risk of reoffending.

Gda McGrath agreed with Marc Thompson BL, defending Birca, that his client has pleaded guilty, fully accepts what he did was wrong and was misled by his friend on the phone.

He said that his client has no previous convictions, was cooperative, offered a sincere apology and confirmed his regret and genuine remorse.

Jennifer Jackson BL, defending Musteata, said her client was only 18 at the time of the assault and entered an early guilty plea. She said he was under the mistaken belief that his friend had been attacked.

Gda McGrath agreed that Musteata made admissions, was cooperative and made several apologies to the victims throughout the process.

Ian Woodland, BL, defending Onila, said his client waived his right to a solicitor when questioned by the gardai and was fully cooperative. He offered an early guilty plea and apologised throughout his interview saying, “If I can help, then I will”. He said his client was misled by his friend.

Nicola Cox, BL, defending Ionas, said her client is a 29-year-old man who was misled and shocked by his friend. She said her client had abided by all bail conditions and entered an early guilty plea.

Ms Cox said her client came to Ireland to work in the construction industry and is highly skilled. He has now set up his own company.

Simon Matthews, BL, defending Soponari, said his client was the first to offer a guilty plea, has a good work history and was misled by his friend. He handed a letter to the court outlining his remorse, which he said was also demonstrated in the probation report.

Passing sentence yesterday, Judge Pauline Codd said that three people were set upon, including one woman, by a group of six men. She said the injured parties were doing the right thing in trying to help a woman who they believed was in difficulty.

Judge Codd said she accepts that the five accused men were led to believe that their friend had been assaulted. She set a headline sentence of two and a half years for each of the accused.

The judge said she would take into consideration the lack of previous convictions, the early guilty pleas, and the apologies and remorse shown by the accused. She said that this offence seems out of character for the accused, who are all first-time offenders and all in stable full-time employment.

Judge Codd sentenced Birca, Onila and Ionas to 18 months in prison, suspended in full for 18 months. She sentenced Musteata to one year in prison, suspended in full for one year, and Soponari to 16 months, suspended in full for 16 months. They must all keep the peace and be of good behaviour during this time.

The sixth man is still before the courts.

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