By Staff Reporter email@example.com @dgldemocrat
A Donegal fisherman who was found guilty of assaulting the landlord of a pub where he drank with a baseball bat, just days after he had been barred from the premises, has been given a four-year prison sentence.
John McGettigan (32) was found guilty last week by a jury of assault causing harm to Darren McLaughlin at Foden, Carndonagh on October 8th, 2013.
Mr McLaughlin, who is the landlord at the Orchard Bar in Gleneely, was beaten with a baseball bat outside his home after arriving home from the pub, two days after he had barred McGettigan from the pub.
The court heard McGettigan, of 9 Gemstone Park, Gleneely, struck Mr McLaughlin on the head, arms and legs with the baseball bat.
The victim suffered a deep cut to his forehead, two deep cuts to his legs and fractures to his right hand.
Mr McGettigan’s defence had claimed the victim of the assault had blamed him because he had ridiculed him in the bar after Mr McLaughlin was seen masturbating in the bar cellar by a female member of staff who he had been in a relationship with.
McGettigan admitted being the ringleader among a number of pub regulars who had ridiculed Mr McLaughlin for a year.
In a victim impact statement read out at the sentencing hearing at Letterkenny Circuit Court, Mr McLaughlin said he had been left physically and mentally scarred by the attack.
He told Judge Martin Nolan that following the attack he slept with lights on inside and outside his house at night. He also said he suffered financially by not being able to return to work.
Mr McLaughlin also spoke of how the media coverage of the court case had impacted on him.
He said that to have papers print “that a lewd sex act was the cause of my assault has furthermore damaged me mentally, my immediate friends, family and business”.
"I want to move on from this, but it will not be easy as I feel like I will be the one with a record because of Google and social media and the links to this case.”
Judge Martin Nolan pointed out that the actions of Mr McLaughlin that were brought into the case by the defence “was an essential part of the running the of the trial”.
While he said it was unfortunate that Mr McLaughlin had come to public notoriety, the evidence had to come out, the judge said.
A number of people acted as character witnesses for McGettigan, including his current employer and his next door neighbours.
His sister Mairead, a community children's nurse in Derry, said their parents are both in their 70s and John, the only son, regularly helped his father on the family farm.
She said her brother didn't want the family to come to court for the initial trial because he was protecting them.
Judge Martin Nolan said the attack was at the higher end of the scale for assault causing harm.
He said it was “a savage assault by any standards".
While he acknowledged that other people including his family would suffer if McGettigan went to jail,
the seriousness of the crime warranted a prison sentence.
"On night in question, temper overcame you and you committed a huge misjudgement and it was pretty malicious,” he said.
Judge Nolan sentenced McGettigan to four years in prison but suspended the last 18 months.
Victim impact statement of Darren McLaughlin
This is the impact statement of Darren McLaughlin:"My injuries sustained from my assault: I have been left with visual scars to my head, my leg and I have continuous pain in my fingers,hand and leg. Since the assault I have been affected psychologically.
"It has left me very nervous traveling home at night. It leaves me with the need to leave lights on inside and outside my house all night which makes me feel like a child.
"After the assault I had to leave my rented house and move in with my family because I was afraid to live alone. But I did keep on my rented house.
"After the assault I had loss of earnings due to not being able to work myself. I had to pay out for extra staff to cover the work I would normally have done. And I was also out monies because of medical expenses.
"The assault made me very uneasy for a long time when I went back to work. I found myself making up stories about the assault because I was afraid that I might have been attacked again if I really mentioned who did it. This is totally out of character for me.
"As a publican I found it very hard to get into any confrontations after the assault because I had no confidence any more.
"For a long time and to this day I still feel the need not to take the direct route home and this has been made worse since the court hearing.
"A day or two leading up to the court case I was extremely nervous and physically sick, so much so that my partner had to cover me at my work. When I went to court the next day I never expected my personal business and character to be discredited so maliciously.
"It was very hard to relive the night of the assault and it made me feel very vulnerable all over again. The court case itself was hard enough, but when I arrived home to be told that my case had been on social media I was gutted.
"The stories in the papers have affected me, my immediate family and not to mention my business. I was so upset that I could not face anyone for days or go to my work.
"Again I was physically sick, could not sleep or function and was out money because I could not work myself. It has put a very big strain on my current relationship and family.
"During the hearing of the case I felt like a criminal because of the evidence Ms McDaid gave, that was not relevant to the night or time of my assault, and then to have papers print that a lewd sex act was the cause of my assault has furthermore damaged me mentally, my immediate friends, family and business.
"I want to move on from this but it will not be easy as I feel like I will be the one with a record because of Google and social media and the links to this case.
"I would like to thank the court and jury and I hope that I can finally put closure on this matter and eventually try and move on with my life."