A 22-year-old man who punched an off-duty garda, causing him permanent and traumatic injuries, has been given a four-year jail sentence.

Michael Fitzgerald, of Cloughnadromin, Ballysimon, Co Limerick, admitted assaulting 36-year-old Dermot Gibson, a garda based in Gort, Co Galway.

The assault happened when Mr Gibson was returning to his wife's relatives' home near St Patrick's Road in Limerick after a night out.

Mr Gibson met the accused after he had chased a youth who had stolen his wife's handbag.

He was punched without warning by Fitzgerald and fell to the ground hitting his head on the pavement.

Mr Gibson endured what were described as life-changing consequences, as a result of the traumatic head injury he suffered.

He has lost his sense of smell and taste, has problems with his vision and hearing, and is unable to drive a garda patrol car, all of which have had an effect on his career.

Sentencing Fitzgerald today, Judge Caroll Moran said this was a random and unjustified attack. It was a forcable and deliberate blow with the intent to cause injury.

While the judge accepted that Fitzgerald was remorseful and had made admissions and an early plea, having regard to the serious injuries suffered by the victim and the consequences for him, a substantial prison sentence had to be imposed.