Man avoids jail for squirting liquid in eye of anti-lockdown protester Dee Wall

Barry O’Sullivan (45) given suspended sentence for assaulting Dolores Webster, aka Dee Wall, after Covid-19 demonstration in Dublin

Ms Webster, also known as Dee Wall, did not suffer any medical bills or expenses but her clothes were stained and she says the assault has had a 'profound effect' on her. Photograph: Conor O Mearain /Collins Photos

A man has avoided jail for a “humiliating” attack on prominent anti-lockdown protester Dolores Webster, who also goes by the name Dee Wall, after a demonstration in Dublin.

Barry O’Sullivan, 45, of Slí an Chanail, Leixlip, Co. Kildare, was given a suspended sentence when he pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the assault at Merrion Row, Dublin 2, on September 12th, 2020.

The incident followed a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions attended by Ms Webster, who reported it to gardaí at the scene.

Dublin District Court heard how O’Sullivan squirted a liquid, believed to be water, into her face causing her eye to sting as a result of her mascara running.

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Judge Hughes imposed a two-month sentence but suspended it on the condition he keeps the peace for two years, fined him €500 ordered him to pay €1,000 in compensation via gardaí before the third anniversary of the incident.

Judge Hughes described the assault as “humiliating, degrading and insulting”. The minor assault category offence – contrary to section two of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act – carries a six-month prison sentence.

Det Gda Gráinne Collier told Judge Hughes a Covid-19 protest took place at Merrion Street, Dublin 2, about the temporary restrictions and regulations imposed by the Government.

Dolores “Dee” Webster was part of a demonstration which concluded at about 5pm, and she then walked with friends on Merrion Row toward St Stephen’s Green.

The court heard that three people walked toward her, and “one male, unknown to her, threw a liquid into her face”.

There was a large garda presence in the area, and she reported the incident.

O’Sullivan was stopped and identified himself.

Questioned by the judge about the liquid, the detective said it was believed to be water, but “Ms Webster said there was a sting in her eye as a result of the liquid being thrown at her face; we have not established exactly what it was.”

The court heard that she did not suffer any medical bills or expenses, but her clothes were stained and it had a “profound effect” on her.

The detective agreed with defence solicitor Michael Finucane that the victim said in her statement that the sting was from mascara running into her eye.

She also accepted the defence proposition that, in all probability, O’Sullivan had squirted water “in an unpleasant but otherwise self-contained incident”.

O’Sullivan did not address the court but instructed his solicitor to offer an unreserved apology to Ms Webster on his behalf.

Mr Finucane said there was a “heightened atmosphere” at the time of O’Sullivan’s unfortunate and unnecessary action.

He asked the court to note his client was attending counselling and trying to “move on” and obtain full-time employment, and there had been no further incidents.

O’Sullivan had 13 prior criminal convictions. The latest was for a public order offence in May 2020, which resulted in being bound to keep the peace.

Previously he received a fine for a breach of the peace and wilful obstruction in 2014, which followed a 14-year gap since earlier unspecified offences.

Ms Webster was in court, but due to the guilty plea, she was not required to give evidence and she declined to give a victim impact statement.

Gardaí obtained CCTV footage, which did not have to be shown.

The judge said the incident was “not a trivial matter” and was an assault.

O’Sullivan had initially denied the charge. The judge said he could not get maximum credit for his late change of plea to guilty because a hearing date had been set in September, requiring Ms Webster and all witnesses to come to court on Wednesday.

The judge also ordered him to attend appointments with the Probation Service, comply with its recommendations, and have no contact with Ms Webster except via solicitors.