A 36-year-old Cork man has been jailed for nine-and-a-half years for causing a man to lose an eye by throwing a caustic liquid in his face in a case where he asked police about the victim, “Is he still a handsome man?”
John Paul Carey was handed a 10-year sentence by Judge James McCourt at Cork Crown Court on Monday afternoon, suspended for the final six months.
Francis Costello, a victim who hoped to be killed during the attack because of the extreme agony he felt, said he later considered suicide, but thanked family and friends who kept him going.
Costello, 40, said afterward that he did not accept the defendant’s recent apology, which he said came too late to have any meaning. He said he still has 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 grievous bodily harm, as well as assault causing harm to two of his brothers. John Paul Carey became involved in an argument between Francis Costello and his ex-partner, who had started a new relationship with Mr Carey four months before the attack.
The victim, Francis Costello, said as he struggled to remain composed in the witness stand: “I consider myself an outgoing, confident and outgoing person. I had many hobbies and interests… I did not have an easy life because I struggled with addiction in the past. I am proud to say that today I am in recovery, rebuilding my life, one day at a time.
“The night of March 4, 2022 will stay with me for the rest of my life, the physical pain I went through, I just wanted to die, stop burning in my eyes, face and head as I lay on the ground, crying and screaming in pain as I was punched and legs.
“I prayed that the next blow would be fatal, just to end the suffering. Little did I know that night that I would struggle with my mental and emotional health for the next year, undergo numerous surgeries and have my eye removed last October.
“I lost my job which put me under enormous financial stress and left me in a lot of debt in my life.
“I’m grateful to the support network of friends, family and neighbors who helped save me when I just didn’t want to save myself. I would also like to thank the Post Crime Support Service and the Mental Health Service for their support and help when I needed it. I will be forever grateful.”
John Paul Carey formerly lived in Glanmire, County Cork, and Dunmanus Crescent in Knocknaheeny, Cork.
Detective Inspector Jason Lynch said someone knocked on the front door of the Costello family home in Connolly Road, Ballyphehane, Cork, at 8.20pm on 4 March 2022.
“Francis Costello opened the door to be greeted by John Paul Carey. Both of them knew each other. Mr Carey now lives with Francis Costello’s ex-partner. There was a brief discussion about the phone call the night before.
“Before he had a chance to respond to Mr Carey, the liquid was thrown in his face. He fell to the floor in great pain and screamed. Mr. Carey began the attack on him.
“Hearing the scream, Roy and John rushed to help their brother. Both immediately recognized John Paul Carey. They too were doused with liquid. It caused intense burning and agony.
“John suffered chemical burns on his face. Roy’s hands and arms were burned. Mr Carey fled the scene. Roy contacted 911. Franjo suffered severe burns to his face and scalp… His left eye was severely injured. He was hospitalized for several weeks due to these chemical injuries. He lost his left eye.
“John had chemical burns on both eyes and was left with 90% vision in his right eye and 80% in his left eye. The substance was handed over to Forensic Science Ireland, which revealed that it was sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda.
“John Paul Carey is 36 and from Glanmire, now living in the Knocknaheeny area. He has 99 prior convictions,” Det. Insp. Lynch said. Those convictions include counts of dealing €50,000 worth of heroin and armed robbery of a post office in Little Island.
In his victim impact statement, John Costello said: “It was the most horrific thing – my face was on fire, my vision was gone. I was lucky enough to have my sight back to some extent… I am still afraid of opening the door every time the doorbell rings.” Roy Costello did not make a victim impact statement.
Senior defense counsel, Elizabeth O’Connell, said the accused had pleaded guilty to three counts of assault, avoiding the need for a trial, and had written a letter of apology to the accused.
Judge McCourt said: “The loss of an eye is a tremendous injury… But sentencing is not an exercise in revenge and it is not revenge on the victim.”
The judge said aggravating factors included previous convictions for some serious offences, including armed robbery and drug dealing, and the nature of the injuries sustained in the case. An additional aggravating circumstance was the fact that the crime was committed in the privacy of the victim’s own home.
“This was not just cowardly, it was unprovoked and the actions were planned and premeditated,” Judge McCourt said. He added that at the time gardaí sought the defendant’s help in identifying the liquid used, their inquiries were met with unhelpful comments – “Is Francis still a handsome man?”