Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told that Francis Costello (40) prayed he would die such was the horrific pain he suffered as a consequence of the unprovoked attack by John Paul Carey (36) last year.
Carey, who has 99 previous convictions including convictions for armed robbery, drug possession and assault, was questioned by Gardaí immediately after the attack in a bid to determine precisely what substance he had thrown at Mr Costello and his two brothers.
Judge James McCourt was told that Carey offered no assistance to officers desperately trying to determine the substance but then asked them: “If he (Mr Costello) was still a handsome man?”
Judge McCourt imposed a ten year prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final six months in light of Carey’s plea and other mitigating factors.
He also backdated the sentence to April 18 2022 when Carey was taken into custody.
Carey pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Francis Costello at Connolly Road in Ballyphehane, Cork on March 4 2022 contrary to Section 4 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
He also admitted assault causing harm to Mr Costello’s two brothers, John and Roy, at the same location and date contrary to Section 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.
All three men were struck by a corrosive liquid thrown at them by Carey who has addresses at Dunmanus Crescent in Knocknaheeny, Allihies in west Cork and Glanmire, where he was originally from.
Such were the horrific injuries to Francis Costello’s face that his left eye had to be surgically removed in October 2022 after desperate attempts by Cork surgeons to save it failed.
Mr Costello’s brother, John, now has only 90pc vision in his right eye and 80pc vision in his left eye.
Roy Costello was left with serious scars on his arms and hands from the caustic solution tossed at him.
Gardaí and Cork Fire Brigade were called to the scene on March 4 – and fire brigade officers were so concerned about the nature of the liquid that had even burned into the front door of the property that they sealed off the entire area and had to alert a special cleaning crew.
Francis Costello, a father-of-three, was rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where he underwent emergency medical treatment for several weeks.
Gardaí later found a bottle nearby and Detective Inspector Jason Lynch said it was found to have contained a powerful caustic soda solution used for unblocking clogged drains.
In an emotional victim impact statement, Francis Costello said the pain was so great that evening he wanted to die.
“The night of March 4 2022 will remain with me for the rest of my life,” he sobbed as he insisted on delivering his victim impact statement in person.
Judge McCourt noted the courage displayed by Mr Costello and he outlined the impact of the attack on his 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 kicked and punched.”
“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 lost the will to live – and I had planned to end it all so many times. Thankfully, I did not go through with it. I believe today there is a way through anything life might throw at me.”
Mr Costello said he had only emerged from the nightmare thanks to the incredible support of family, friends, neighbours and officials with victim support groups.
Speaking after the sentencing hearing, Mr Costello said: “What he did to me, you wouldn’t do it to an animal.”
Mr Costello also said that Carey’s letter of apology was far too late to have any meaning for him.
He said he hoped the sentencing would give him some closure and that he could continue to rebuild his life after the horrific attack.
The court heard that Mr Costello, who had previously worked in retail, lost his job and is now fearful every day of losing his sight.
Judge McCourt was told that John Paul Carey had been working that day but, after going for a few drinks, had become agitated over a dispute between Mr Costello, Mr Costello’s former partner who was now in a relationship with him, and himself.
He called to the Costello family home and, after Francis Costello answered the door, threw the caustic liquid into his face.
The liquid was also thrown on his two brothers who rushed to help their sibling when they heard him screaming in agony and writhing on the ground by the front door.
Judge McCourt was told that the incident occurred while Carey was under the provisions of a suspended portion of a four year and six month sentence imposed for the armed robbery of Little Island Post Office on February 5 2020.
Carey had also received a ten year prison sentence, with the final five years suspended, for drug offences.
Elizabeth O’Connell SC, for Carey, pointed out to the court that he came from an unfortunate and extremely sad background, having lost his mother in tragic circumstances.
She said her client had submitted a letter of apology to the Costello family on the day he was first arraigned over the incident.
Ms O’Connell also noted that her client’s “reckless and irrational actions” had damaged the stability he had finally managed to achieve in his personal life.
She pointed out that Carey was still involved in a relationship with Mr Costello’s ex-partner and had a child with her last year.
Donal O’Sullivan BL, for the State, said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), indicated the sentence in the matter should be at the higher end of the scale given the severity of the injury involved.
Judge McCourt warned that: “The loss of an eye is an enormous injury. I was convinced of that before the DPP ever opened his mouth.”
He noted that Carey’s plea had saved the State a lengthy trial and had avoided the Costello family having to give evidence.
“Not only were these attacks cowardly but they were unprovoked,” the judge said.
He noted that the attacks occurred at a family home and clearly hinted at planning and premeditation.
“The level of harm visited on Francis Costello is appalling. This (offence) clearly falls at the upper end of the scale.”
Judge McCourt agreed to suspend the final six months of the 10 year prison sentence on the basis of Carey entering into a bond to keep the peace for one year on his release from prison.