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28 Nov 2021

Boxer's fists were lethal weapons says Judge

Caused criminal damage during Dundalk burglary

The fists of a boxer who “rained blows down on” senior businessman Kevin Lunney would be regarded as “lethal weapons” in other countries, a senior judge said on Monday.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, was commenting as an appeal from James Bernard McGovern (24), who was jailed for three years and three months for attacking Mr Lunney and his Quinn Industrial Holdings colleague Dara O’Reilly, was dismissed.

In March, McGovern had pleaded guilty to a Section 3 assault against Mr Lunney by repeatedly punching him at the Apple Green Service Station, near Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.

At the same hearing at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court, McGovern also admitted a Section 2 assault against Mr O'Reilly by throwing a cup of boiling water over the Quinn executive as he sat at a table in the service station’s dining area with Mr Lunney.

Counsel for McGovern submitted the sentence imposed by Judge John Aylmer had been too severe.

Mr Lunney suffered a broken nose and potentially life-lasting damage to his eye as a result of the February 2019 attack, which began when McGovern approached the two men with a cup of boiling water in his hand.

Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Birmingham said he had been struck by the “ferocity and savagery” of the assault against Mr Lunney which had been carried out by a “highly prolific boxer”.

The judge also noted that the injuries suffered by Mr O’Reilly might have been more severe if the victim hadn’t been wearing glasses when McGovern threw a cup of boiling water in to his face.

Describing the appellant as an “accomplished boxer” who had “rained blows down on” Mr Lunney, Mr Justice Birmingham said McGovern’s fists would be regarded in some jurisdictions as “lethal weapons”.

The offending, the judge said, had been carried out as an “act of revenge” after McGovern’s father lost his job at Quinn Industrial Holdings and was “a very, very serious matter”.

Mr Justice Birmingham also observed that Mr Lunney had “been a victim of a campaign of violence and intimidation” in a separate case.

However, he said he accepted this offence “was an isolated incident and not connected to other matters”.

The jail term imposed on McGovern, Mr Justice Birmingham continued, had fallen “within the margin of appreciation” open to the sentencing judge.

“In those circumstances, we are obliged to dismiss the appeal,” he said.

Earlier, Detective Sergeant Jim McDevitt talked the court through a CCTV recording of attacks.

“At 13:31, the accused leaves his table and speaks to waiter to ask for a refill of hot water and sits back down at his table,” the officer said.

Det Sgt McDevitt then described how McGovern gets back up from and walks towards Mr Lunney and Mr O’Reilly, neither of whom were looking at the appellant.

“The cup of hot water is thrown into the face of Mr O’Reilly,” Det Sgt McDevitt told the court.

A scuffle can then be seen breaking out, during which McGovern punches Mr Lunney several times.

Karl Monaghan BL, for McGovern, acknowledged to the court that the footage “speaks for itself”.

Mr Monaghan said, however, that the reduction of his client’s jail time from a headline sentence of four years to three years and three months was “inadequate” given the mitigation factors available to the judge.

Mr Monaghan said McGovern was 22 when the offence was committed, was of “previous good character”, and a first-time offender.

The appellant, who is originally from the North, had been separated from his “nuclear family” and was suffering from depression at the time of the attack, counsel told court.

McGovern, Mr Monaghan continued, had also returned to this jurisdiction voluntarily to face proceedings
He had regretted his actions and as a token of remorse, the court was told, McGovern had offered €1,000 to Mr Lunney.

Monica Lawlor BL, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the jail term imposed had been appropriate and had been imposed after the judge had “given great care and consideration when considering all matters”.

Ms Lawlor said the victims had been “making decisions in the context of their daily business” when McGovern threw the boiling water at the face and head of his victims in an “unprovoked” attack.

Counsel also said there were fears McGovern would not cooperate with probation services in this jurisdiction if his sentence was reduced.

McGovern’s home address, Ms Lawlor explained, was in the North and he had only presented himself to the authorities on this side of the Border after an extradition order was issued.

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