A County Longford woman who stabbed a Donegal Town mother with a scissors at a “drunken house party” in the town, has told a court the victim was “like a mother to her”.
24-year-old Shannan Kavanagh, Newtownforbes, County Longford lunged at Nicole Wilson with a scissors at a house party at Drumrooske Estate, Donegal Town on November 18, 2015, Donegal Town Circuit Court was told.
She stabbed Nicola Wilson on the top of the head and blood streamed from the wound, and was all over the kitchen.
The victim, who had previously taken the defendant in “and put a roof over head” was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital where she needed 13 stitches and staples. She was kept overnight after a “vicious unprovoked attack”.
In a victim impact statement read out in court, Nicola Wilson said her life had changed since the assault and she suffered from anxiety and depression.
She added that she had turned to alcohol for a period to black out the “nightmares” since the stabbing.
In an emotional public apology, the defendant, Ms Kavanagh said: “I am genuinely sorry Nicola. You are the last person I would want to hurt. I love you and you looked after me and I stayed in your house and you were like a mam to me.”
Both the defendant and her victim were weeping quietly at this juncture. When asked by defence counsel Peter Nolan, instructed by Rory O’Brien, solicitor, why she stabbed the victim, she replied: “I was not in my right mind and it makes me sick to think I did that to you."
Mr Nolan then read out a letter of apology from the defendant that stated: “I know I can never take back what I did. When I first came to Donegal Town you were like a second mother to me and I really did love you.”
Turned her life around
The defendant added that her head was all over the place with drink and drugs. She was away from her baby son and family and did not care about anyone or anything. She said she had now turned her life around and was in a better place.
“I am genuinely sorry for what happened,” the letter added.
The defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of assault causing harm to Nicole Wilson at Drumrooske Estate Donegal Town on November 18th last.
State Prosecutor, Dara Foynes, read a written statement from the victim that stated the incident happened at a house party in the previously mentioned location and date.
Nicola Wilson was at the party, as was the defendant. Both had been friends since Ms Kavanagh left her Longford home to be with her father in Donegal, the court heard. The statement added that there was drink at the party, but she had not much drink taken, and at one stage, the accused was having her hair cut. There had been no rows and she remembered getting up to dance at one stage. Suddenly Shannan Kavanagh lunged at her with a scissors in the kitchen and stabbed her with a scissors and blood was “flowing everywhere”.
Garda Charlie Gallagher told the court he got a call from an ambulance that was at 436 Drumrooske Estate. There was a lot of commotion in the house and a female was sitting in a chair in the kitchen. A man was applying pressure to the wound and there was a lot of blood on the floor. He spoke to a number of people who did not want to give a statement. The garda said it was a house party and some people were drunk.
On August 1st, 2016, he interviewed the defendant under caution. She admitted being at the party in Donegal Town, was taking tablets and drinking heavily at the time. The defendant did not remember using a scissors, but did remember seeing a lot of blood on the floor. She also admitted that Ms Wilson had offered her a place to stay and fed her free of charge and they had got on well.
The garda added that it was a party that had gotten out of hand due to excessive consumption of alcohol. The court was told the defendant had previous convictions for assault, obstruction and public order matters. The garda said the defendant was no stranger to the county, and visited the county regularly in her teens.
Victim’s impact statement
The victim Nicola Wilson’s impact statement, which was read out in court, stated she had to always wear her hair down and could not bring her son or her grandson to the swimming pool since the stabbing.
She said it had been a very traumatic time for her and her family and all she was seeking now was closure. Her confidence had been shattered.
Judge John Aylmer was shown photographs of the injuries inflicted on the victim.
Defence counsel Peter Nolan, said his client was very drunk, and those at the party had been drinking from around 1 pm to 7.20 pm when the garda got the call.
Garda Gallagher agreed under cross-examination by Mr Nolan that it was impossible to get a statement from anyone at the party because of the level of alcohol being consumed.
The garda agreed that the defendant was going through a very dark period when the incident happened. She had left her mother and son in Longford and was taking excessive drugs and alcohol at the time.
Mr Nolan said a subsequent period in Coolmine had sparked a sea change in her attitude.
She was off drink, was regularly tested for drugs, and was back with her mother and caring for her son in Newtownforbes.
Mr Nolan said she pleaded guilty early, had shown clear remorse and was now contributing to society with a view to becoming a chef in Longford.
She was classed as being at a moderate risk of re-offending according to a Probation report read to the court.
The defendant was gone from Donegal Town.
Mr Nolan asked the court to put the defendant “on her mettle” to see if she would continue her rehabilitation.
Judge John Aylmer said this was a “spontaneous, violent, unprovoked and vicious attack” on Ms Wilson who suffered a very serious injury to her head.
It was lucky that it was not more serious and the defendant would be before a higher court.
The judge added that the victim had been scarred for life.
He added that three years in jail was the appropriate sentence, but reduced this to two years and four months given a number of mitigating factors.
There was genuine remorse, significant understanding of the effects of the assault on Ms Wilson whom the defendant had previously considered to be one of her closest friends.
The defendant was fully co-operative with gardai and her previous convictions for assault were not at the level of the matter before the court.
She had asked for a custodial sentence for other previous matters elsewhere and this seems to have had a positive effect.
The judge said he was going to give her a “last chance” by reducing the three years jail sentence to two years and four months, and suspending the sentence.
The defendant was bound to the peace and to be of good behaviour on her own bond of 100 euro.
The sentence was suspended for two years and six months.
She was also remain drug and alcohol free and to have urine analysis to check for the presence of drugs in her system.
The defendant was to be under the supervision of the Probation service and to co-operate with their directions, courses and the psychological/psychiatric recommendations.