'˜Drug addicts' battered pensioner - court told

Two drug addicts thrown out of a house party in Coleraine who then set upon and broke the ribs of a pensioner who was leaving his home next door to walk his dog were jailed on Monday for what a judge described as a 'cowardly attack'.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 3:40 pm
Updated Monday, 16th January 2017, 3:42 pm

The 66-year-old victim also received a battered face during the 11.30pm assault in the Ballycastle Road area of Coleraine which was carried out by two men from near Ballymoney.

Michael McMullan (23), or Erinvale Park, Magherahoney and Niall Butler (29) of Rockend, Corkey - appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court for sentencing after previously admitting the offences.

They each received four months in jail but Butler also had a three months suspended sentence activated to make his custodial sentence seven months. They were both released on bail of £500 pending appeal.

Both men admitted charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm relating to Wednesday October 7, 2015, and McMullan also pleaded guilty to possessing a knife which was found later.

Butler pleaded guilty to a second charge of resisting a police officer in the execution of his duty.

A prosecutor said police were called and found the pensioner was left with broken ribs and cuts and swelling to his face with blood down the front of his shirt.

A woman gave officers the names of the two men who attacked the pensioner with no apparent motive.

The prosecutor said the men were “thrown out” of a house party next door to the victim and they jumped over a wall into his garden and attacked him.

They were later located at Coleraine Railway Station and both were “highly intoxicated”. McMullan had a knife in his waistband while Butler resisted police.

The victim told police he was in his home and heard a commotion outside and the men were told to get out of his property before the pensioner was punched in the face and “wrestled” over a front wall and then kicked by the second man before a female voice from next door shouted at them to stop.

McMullan’s barrister Michael Smith said his client had been in England where he got involved in drug-taking which led to him having mental health difficulties and after he lost his employment he returned home.

Mr Smith said on the night in question McMullan accepted he had taken “a significant amount of illicit drugs” and it was “bad luck” on the injured man’s part that he had encountered him.

He said “words were exchanged” and his client took the wrong meaning of what was said.

Mr Smith said it appeared the pensioner was going out to walk his dog and during the incident his wife had to lock the door to keep the defendants out of their house.

Mr Smith said McMullan had expressed remorse and has been attending a Community Addictions Team.

He said his client was found with a knife in his jogging bottoms later in the evening but there was no suggestion he had produced it or threatened to use it during the “unprovoked assault on an elderly man outside his own home”.

Mr Smith said McMullan had been “messing around with friends” earlier in the day and forgot he still had the knife on him.

Butler’s barrister Dean Mooney said it was a “disgraceful, nasty, incident” and whatever the personal problems the two men had there was nothing to justify the violence they meted out.

He said Butler had long-standing difficulties with heroin addiction but had self-referred for treatment.

Mr Mooney said Butler suffered significant injuries in a car crash in 2007 when his throat was “slashed” and his tongue severed which meant he had to learn to speak again and it had an impact on his mental health.

District Judge Liam McNally said the victim had come out of his home and was the “recipient of a cowardly attack” by the duo who left him with broken ribs and other injuries.

He said the starting point was six months in jail but with the pleas of guilty that was reduced to four months and the pensioner will receive compensation totalling £500.