‘Am I safe in this country at all?’ – Limerick soldier attack victim speaks out

'Both men and women are victims of violent crime – but it's the system of justice that we are the true victims of.'
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

13.42 21 Jun 2024

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‘Am I safe in this country at...

‘Am I safe in this country at all?’ – Limerick soldier attack victim speaks out

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

13.42 21 Jun 2024

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The woman who yesterday saw her attacker walk free from court after he pleaded guilty to beating her unconscious on the street has said she was “completely horrified” by the sentence – but not surprised.

On Lunchtime Live this afternoon Natasha O’Brien said she had spent the weeks leading up to the hearing preparing herself for a soft sentence.

She said victims of violent crime in Ireland see their attackers walk free far too often, adding, “It's the system of justice we are the true victims of”.


The 24-year-old said she came to court hoping to prove that there are repercussions for intentionally harming others – but warned that the “exact opposite message” has now been sent out.


Yesterday, 22-year-old soldier Cathal Crotty of Parkroe Heights, Ardnacrusha, County Clare walked free from court after he was handed a three-year suspended sentence for the attack on Ms O’Brien.

Ms O'Brien suffered a broken nose, bruising, nightmares and panic attacks after the unprovoked attack.

Hours after the attack, Mr Crotty boasted about what he had done, writing to friends on Snapchat, "Two to put her down, two to put her out."

Delivering the sentence, Judge Tom O'Donnell said Crotty's actions were "utterly appalling" but said he was not imposing an immediate jail sentence because he had 'no doubt' it would end his army career.

“I just remember walking out of that courtroom and I had so many emotions pumping through my body,” Ms O’Brien told Lunchtime Live.

“I was just completely horrified and appalled.

“I couldn't believe the reason for the sentence that was given by Judge O’Donnell.

“That it was so important that this young, promising male did not lose his career in the Irish Defence Forces.

“In my victim impact statement, I had expressed very, very clearly that my mental health declined so badly [after the attack], that I couldn’t complete basic tasks, let alone show up to work.”


Ms O’Brien said she had to restrain herself in court as the sentence was announced.

“I really, really had to bite my tongue because I was telling myself, ‘I'm in court’,” she said.

“It was my first ever time appearing in court and I was telling myself, ‘Don’t try and shout at the judge or don't try and do something.

“I walked out of that courthouse and I felt so, so ignored and so defeated, but the most heartbreaking part is that I wasn't actually surprised."

Justice system

Ms O'Brien said she went to court to stand up for victims of violent crime – but she was fully prepared for dissapointment.

“In my head I was thinking, ‘I need to go, I need to do this’ because there are so many violent crimes; there's so much violence on our streets,” she said.

“Innocent, vulnerable people, with zero instigation, are at the mercy of all of this violence and you see it in the headlines all the time – ‘Suspended sentence, suspended sentence, promising young man, suspended sentence’.

“It's both men and women that are the victims of this – but it's the system of justice that we are the true victims of.”


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‘Am I safe in this country at all?’

Ms O’Brien said she ‘can’t describe the pain and absolute horror’ of hearing an Irish Defence Forces commandant give a character reference for her attacker.

“I had just had to walk past my attacker and stand a metre away from him to give my victim impact statement,” she said.

“I had walked back down and very, very shortly after that, a commandant in the Irish Defence Forces stood up and took the stand to explain that the defendant was, you know, ‘very polite’ and that ‘this is very out of character’.

“I would very much hope that it is out of character to almost beat someone to death.”

Ms O’Brien said the Defence Forces' mission is to protect Irish citizens and after hearing the character reference, she was left thinking, ‘Am I safe in this country at all?’

Defence Forces

This afternoon, a spokesperson for the Defence Forces confirmed that military authorities would now be examining the case.

The spokesperson commended Ms O’Brien for her bravery and said the Defence Forces “unequivocally condemns any actions by serving personnel that are contrary to or do not reflect our values”.

“Any conviction in a civilian court may have implications for the retention and service of members of the Defence Forces, as stipulated in Defence Forces Regulations," it said.

“Once due process has been completed in a civilian court of law it becomes a matter for the relevant Defence Forces authorities in accordance with Defence Forces Regulations.

“As such it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

You can listen back to Ms O’Brien’s full interview here:

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