A boy who beat up a man with an iron bar and made racial slurs against his victim's wife when he was aged just 13 has been given a deferred detention sentence.
The teenager, who is now 15 years old, attacked the couple as they were travelling on a Luas in Dublin in December 2019 – spitting a sweet at the woman and making racist comments before stealing the man's rucksack and hitting him repeatedly with an 18cm iron bar.
Passengers on the Red Luas line remonstrated with the boy, who was one of a group of teenagers, as he carried out the attack, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard on Friday.
The Dublin boy, who can't be named as he is a juvenile, pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing harm to the man and one count of producing an article at St James's Luas stop, Dublin on December 23, 2019.
Another count of stealing a rucksack was taken into consideration. He has seven previous convictions.
Sentencing the boy on Friday, Judge Karen O'Connor said the couple had fled Iraq for the “safety and comfort” of Ireland, and had suffered as a result of the attack.
She said the boy had showed “utter disrespect” by spitting at the women and there was a “racial element to the attack”.
The court heard the man suffered severe bruising to his back and had to be taken to hospital after the attack.
Judge O'Connor noted that the boy was extremely young at the time of the offence and that he is still a child. She referred to the Children Act which states that the detention of a child should be a last resort.
She said she would defer a sentence of 18 months detention for six months, when the matter will return to court to see how the boy has progressed. She put in place a number of strict conditions he must abide by, including a nightly curfew from 9pm to 7am.
“I'm giving you a chance to see how you can behave for six months,” the judge told the boy. She noted he has supportive and loving family members who have pledged to support him over the coming months.
The court heard that the victims were travelling on the Luas at around 6pm on the evening in question when a group of boys, including the perpetrator, got on. The boy was carrying an iron bar which he banged on the floor repeatedly in a “threatening” manner, the judge said.
He spat a sweet at the woman and made derogatory and racist comments about her being Muslim.
The man told the boys to leave them alone, and other passengers also told the boys to stop or they would be kicked off the tram, the court heard.
As they came to St James's stop, the boy grabbed the man's rucksack and got off the tram. The man pursued the boy, who started hitting him with the bar until he was lying on the ground.
In a victim impact statement before the court, the man reported blacking out from pain during the attack. Gardaí and an ambulance were called to the scene as the boys fled.
The boy was recognised from CCTV footage and arrested the following month. The court heard he had a difficult family background and lost his mother at a young age.
His aunt was in court to support him and told the court he would be living with her upon his release from detention. The boy has been in custody since December.
The matter will return to court on October 8.