A young English tourist who suffered serious head injuries in an unprovoked attack during a weekend visit to Dublin has told a court his life will never be the same again.
College student Thomas Oliver, 25, spent three weeks in an induced coma at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin after he was knocked unconscious in a one-punch assault in the city centre on April 17, 2022.
At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday, Judge Martin Nolan sentenced 19-year-old Stefan Bornac to four and a half years in prison, with the final nine months suspended.
Bornac, of Woodlands Park, Naas, Co Kildare, had pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Mr Oliver and to assault causing harm to James Lightly, a friend of Mr Oliver’s, on D’Olier St in Dublin 2.
Judge Nolan said Bornac had displayed “irrational behaviour” and for reasons only known to himself, had launched an unprovoked and unexpected attack, leaving both injured parties with no time to protect themselves or take any evasive action.
Judge Nolan said Bornac had punched Mr Oliver “ferociously” to the head, adding that although he was certain Bornac did not intend to cause the injuries that he did, “when you punch someone as savagely as this man did, there’s always that risk. You do not know what is going to happen.”
Over five weeks in hospital
He noted that Mr Oliver spent five and a half weeks in hospital and sustained devastating injuries and that a consultant neurosurgeon said he had been “in danger of dying”.
The judge set a headline sentence of six and a half to seven years, but reduced this on account of Bornac’s young age, his previous good character, lack of any record, work history, guilty plea, and cooperation with gardaí.
“I can come to the conclusion that Bornac is unlikely to offend to any great degree in the future,” said Judge Nolan.
Mr Oliver’s father attended the sentencing on his son’s behalf and requested that a victim impact statement prepared by his son be read aloud by prosecuting counsel Joe Mulrean BL.
In his statement Mr Oliver said that he and his family and friends would never be able to reconcile the “damage, pain and trauma” caused by the actions of Bornac.
He said the attack almost cost him his life and that the long-lasting psychological effects are profound.
Victim felt like ‘a shell of a human’
Mr Oliver said he felt like “a shell of a human” when he awoke from his induced coma, connected to 15 drip wires and breathing through a respirator, not knowing if he would ever be able to leave the hospital or resume some sort of normal life.
He said his family were told many times that he might not survive the coma, and that if he did, he might have brain damage.
Mr Oliver said “the pain is still very raw” for his family who had to fly from London not knowing if he would be alive when they got there, and for his friends who held his head in their hands while he lay on the ground convulsing and covered in his own vomit.
“The psychological damage will never leave them either,” he said, adding that he did not know how long his own post-traumatic stress disorder would last, or if it would last forever.
Mr Oliver expresssed his thanks to the “brilliance and kindness” of the Irish emergency services, the ICU staff, the neurosurgical teams and the gardaí. He said it was “sheer luck” that he was so quickly attended to by emergency services and that if the attack had happened in London where he lives, he would have been dead.
Long-term effects on Mr Oliver
Mr Oliver has been left with headaches and no sense of smell; his sense of taste was also affected. He lost 50 per cent of his muscle mass and had to relearn how to walk, the court heard.
He also outlined how he missed out on an upcoming promotion at work and now is facing redundancy, and that it cost his family €8,000 to stay in Dublin during his hospitalisation.
Detective Garda Dabhach D