Patrick Ballard sentenced to life for murdering girlfriend Sharon Bennett

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Patrick Ballard Sentenced To Life For Murdering Girlfriend Sharon Bennett Patrick Ballard Sentenced To Life For Murdering Girlfriend Sharon Bennett
He had initially pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Bennett in the Market area of Ennis on January 28th, 2021.
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Alison O'Riordan

The father of 29-year-old Sharon Bennett, who was repeatedly kicked and had her head "danced on" by her partner in a public toilet, has said that their lives are "devastated" and described her murder as a nightmare from which they cannot wake up.

PJ Bennett told the Central Criminal Court on Friday that he was sorry he had let his daughter down and that he did not protect her enough. He added: "I would like to say that I don't blame the Ballard family for what happened to my daughter. I blame Patrick Ballard only; we have all lost here".

Mr Bennett also told the court how Covid restrictions meant the family were not permitted to see Sharon in intensive care for five days after she was admitted to hospital and could not hold a proper funeral when she passed away.

'Brutal and sustained attack'

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Sentencing judge Mr Justice Paul Burns noted that the circumstances of the killing were "truly harrowing and grim" and said that this was "yet another violent killing" where the victim was a woman and the perpetrator was a man with whom she was in a relationship. He said she had been subjected to a "brutal and sustained attack" in a public toilet at the hands of the accused and that Ballard had "brushed aside efforts of another man to intervene".

The judge said that the deceased, mother-of-two Sharon Bennett, had a difficult life as she suffered from problems with alcohol. "I want to make clear that she is totally blameless in this matter, only the accused is to blame for what happened," he emphasised.

The testimony was heard as part of an emotional victim impact statement read on Friday to the Central Criminal Court, where Ballard was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for murdering his girlfriend Ms Bennett. The sentence was backdated to January 28th, 2021, when he went into custody.

The court heard that Ballard, who told gardaí that he "danced" on the deceased's head, has 140 previous convictions dating back to 2006, which include assault and theft.

Of these, 94 are public order offences, 21 are theft and seven are for assault, the most recent in October 2018 when he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

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Ballard (35), formerly of Ashford Court Hotel, Ennis, Co Clare, appeared at the court today for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty on Thursday, just two days into his trial, to the murder of his former partner.

He had initially pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Bennett in the Market area of Ennis on January 28th, 2021. Ms Bennett died in hospital in Limerick two weeks later on February 10th, 2021, due to her injuries.

Ballard and Ms Bennett were in a relationship at the time of the murder and Ms Bennett was a mother of two girls, then aged nine and six, from a previous relationship.

Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice Building on Thursday Mr Bennett said: "I'd like to say that I came here for justice for my daughter, we got justice, he got a mandatory life sentence for the brutal murder he committed on my girl. As far as I am concerned life is still not long enough. I hope he dies in jail, that's all I have to say".

Mr Bennett continued: "I've no ill will against the Ballard family whatsoever. Patrick murdered my daughter, not the Ballard family. I wouldn't like anyone to blame the Ballard family in any way for what happened.

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"He acted alone and he is paying for it. As far as I'm concerned it is still not long enough for what he done to my daughter. It was a brutal, brutal attack. He left the scene twice and came back and admitted today that he danced on her head; his own words. Left again and came back and did it again. So a life sentence to me is not enough.

"There are no winners in a case like this. Even Ballard as much as I hate him, he has lost, we have lost, his family have lost; there are no winners. How can there be a winner in a situation like this? Everyone's lives are devastated.

"Her two girls are left behind. Sharon was a good girl, she had an unfortunate end, but she was a loving daughter and a loving mother, and we loved her to bits and our lives are devastated and so are a lot of others".

Defence counsel Mark Nicholas SC, for Ballard, told a jury of seven men and five women on the opening day of the trial last Tuesday that his client admitted his actions caused the death of his partner and accepted that her killing was unlawful.

Sentence hearing

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At Friday's sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Noelle Bergin detailed the background to the incident. She told prosecution counsel Dominic McGinn SC that Ms Bennett died on February 10th, 2021 having been assaulted by Bennett two weeks earlier on January 28th.

Outlining the events that led up to the murder, Mr McGinn said that both Ms Bennett and Ballard had been living in temporary accommodation in Ennis and were habitually drinking in the centre of Ennis on the afternoon of January 28th. At the time of "the violence" the pair had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol, added the detective.

At one point, there was a "clear disagreement" between the accused and Ms Bennett, which resulted in the mother-of-two kicking or "striking" Ballard in the face.

Ms Bennett, Ballard and a third man Hussein 'Jamesie' Abdullah left the car park area to enter a public toilet as it was warmer. The three people were drinking and chatting in the toilet for about 20 minutes.

The detective said that Ballard then attacked Ms Bennett violently by stamping on her head, which was witnessed by a number of members of the public. The court heard that this incident took place during the Covid-19 lockdown, so the streets weren't as busy as they might usually have been.

Victim impact statement

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The deceased's father PJ Bennett began his statement, which was read to the court by prosecution counsel Mr McGinn, by saying that Sharon was their firstborn child and that she was a "happy go lucky girl" growing up.

Mr Bennett described her as a loving daughter and mother, who was very decent and kind.

He continued: "Sharon and her brother Tom did everything together growing up; you would never see one without the other".

He said Sharon was loved by her little sister Sinead and that they had spent a lot of time together on horses when they were young.

Mr Bennett said Sharon was a loving mother to her now 10-year-old and eight-year-old daughters.

The court heard that one of her daughters had made their Communion this year and that she was the only one without a mother there.

"Her oldest daughter visited her mum's grave and said she wanted to die and go to heaven with her mum. Our lives have been devastated since we got that phone call. It's like a nightmare that we can't wake up from. I'm sorry I let her down and didn't protect her enough. Our lives will never be the same without Sharon in it.

"We couldn't have a proper funeral due to Covid. We were not allowed to see her in intensive care for the first five days due to Covid and had to talk to her through video calls. Even though Patrick Ballard murdered our daughter we were left with the task of turning off her machine and watch her slip away. Our lives will never be the same again."

At the close of her statement, Mr Bennett said: "I would like to say that I don't blame the Ballard family for what happened to my daughter. I blame Patrick Ballard only; we have all lost here today."

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