A 36-year-old Cork man got a nine-and-a-half-year sentence for causing the loss of a man’s eye by throwing corrosive liquid in his face in a case where he enquired of investigating gardaí about the victim, “Is he still a handsome man?”
Judge James McCourt imposed a sentence of 10 years on John Paul Carey at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on Monday afternoon and suspended the last six months.
Francis Costello, the injured party who hoped he would be killed during the attack because of the extremity of the agony he was feeling, said he later contemplated suicide but thanked family and friends who kept him going.
Mr Costello, 40, said afterwards that he did not accept the recent apology from the accused which he said came too late to have any meaning. He said he still had nightmares about the accused. “What he did to me you wouldn’t do to an animal,” he said after the sentencing.
He pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm as well as assault causing harm to two of his brothers. John Paul Carey got involved in a dispute between Francis Costello and his ex-partner, who started a new relationship with Mr Carey four months before this attack.
Victim, Francis Costello, said as he struggled to stay composed in the witness box: “I would consider myself an outgoing, confident and sociable person. I have had a lot of hobbies and interests… I have not had an easy life as I have struggled with addiction in my past. I am proud to say that I am in recovery today, rebuilding my life, a day at a time.
“The night of March 4, 2022, will remain with me for the rest of my life, the physical pain I went through, I just wanted to die, to stop the burning in my eyes, my face and my head as I lay on the ground, crying and screaming in pain while I was being punched and kicked.
“I was praying the next blow would be fatal, just to stop the suffering. Little did I know that night that for the next year I would be battling with my mental and emotional health, attending multiple procedures surgeries and my eye being removed last October.
“I have lost my job which brought huge financial stress and left me in a lot of arrears in my life.
“I am grateful to the support network of friends, family and neighbours for helping save me when I just did not want to save myself. I would also like to thank Support After Crime Services and for the Mental Health Service for their support and assistance when I needed it. I will be forever grateful.”
John Paul Carey was previously living in Glanmire, County Cork, and Dunmanus Crescent in Knocknaheeny, Cork.
Detective Inspector Jason Lynch said there was a knock on the front door of the Costello home at Connolly Road, Ballyphehane, Cork, at 8.20pm on March 4, 2022.
“Francis Costello answered the door where he was met by John Paul Carey. Both were known to each other. Mr Carey is now residing with Francis Costello’s former partner. There was a brief discussion about a phone call the night before.
“Before he got a chance to answer Mr Carey, a liquid was thrown in his face. He fell to the floor with severe pain and was screaming. Mr Carey commenced an assault on him.
“On hearing the screams, Roy and John came to their brother’s assistance. Both instantly recognised John Paul Carey. They too were doused with a liquid. It caused severe burning and agony.
“John suffered chemical burns to his face. Roy’s hands and arms were burned. Mr Carey fled the scene. Roy contacted the emergency services. Francis suffered severe burns to his face and scalp… He suffered a severe injury to his left eye. For these chemical injuries he was hospitalised for a number of weeks. He lost his left eye.
“John had chemical burns to both eyes and was left with 90% sight in his right eye and 80% in his left eye. The substance was submitted to Forensic Science Ireland which found it was Sodium Hydroxide, commonly known as caustic soda.
“John Paul Carey is 36 years old and from Glanmire, now resident in the Knocknaheeny area. He has 99 previous convictions,” Det. Insp. Lynch said. Those convictions include counts for dealing €50,000 worth of heroin and an armed robbery of Little Island post office.
John Costello said in his victim impact statement: “It was the most horrific thing—my face burning, my eyesight was gone. I was lucky enough to get my eyesight back to an extent… I am left with a fear of answering the door each time the doorbell rings.” Roy Costello made no victim impact statement.
Defence senior counsel, Elizabeth O’Connell, said the accused had pleaded guilty to the three assaults, obviating the necessity of a trial, and had written a letter of apology to the accused.
Judge McCourt said: “Loss of an eye is an enormous injury… But sentencing is not an exercise in vengeance and is not revenge by the victim.”
The judge said that aggravating factors included previous convictions for some serious offences including armed robbery and drug-dealing, and the nature of injuries suffered in this case. A further aggravating factor was that the crime was carried out in the sanctity of the injured parties’ own home.
“This was not alone cowardly but unprovoked and the actions were planned and premeditated,” Judge McCourt said. He added that at a time when gardaí were looking for the defendant’s assistance in identifying the liquid used, their enquiries were met with the unhelpful comment—“Is Francis still a handsome man?”