Pint glass throwing man receives a suspended prison sentence
A FATHER of two who threw a pint glass at a man during a "confused" incident involving two groups of friends in east Belfast was handed a suspended prison sentence today.
Paul William Mason, from Carntall Court in Newtownabbey, admitted wounding a man during an incident which occurred close to Central train station on the Albertbridge Road on May 27 2014.
He was handed a two-year sentence, which was suspended for three years, by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC.
Belfast Crown Court heard that during the early morning incident, two groups of friends from different religious backgrounds came together as they were separately making their way to different areas in east Belfast.
And whilst Judge Miller said it couldn't be determined whether some form of sectarian tension sparked the violence, "at some point" Mason threw the pint glass which struck a man from Short Strand, resulting in serious wounds to his neck.
His barrister Sean Mullan said that whilst Mason claimed he was acting in self-defence after he was struck from behind by someone from the other group, it was accepted that his reaction was "disproportionate."
Crown barrister Peter Magill said that following a night out, Mason and his friend were walking close to the train station when they came upon four men who were making their way home to Short Strand. Mason and his friend were both drinking from a pint glass they had taken from a bar.
Mr Magill said the two groups struck up a conversation as they were walking in the same direction towards the Newtownards Road.
He told the court that "something happened" which resulted in one group chasing the other.
Branding the incident - which was captured on CCTV - as "confusing", Mr Magill said Mason then threw a pint glass at one of the men in the group of four from a distance of around five feet, after he and his friend were chased.
The barrister said it was the crown's case that the injured man was "completely innocent of any wrongdoing", and that even if Mason had been chased and attacked, throwing the glass was an "overreaction and disproportionate use of force in the circumstances."
Mr Magill also said the glass was not broken before being used, but rather it shattered when it hit the injured party. This resulted in the man sustaining three separate lacerations to his jawline and around his neck which has left permanent scarring.
Revealing the injured man was "very very fortunate as no main arteries were severed"", Mr Magill said the wounds required 17 stitches. "He was, frankly, very lucky", said the prosecutor, adding the consequences have been "severe" and have left him with psychological issues linked to going out at night.
When police arrived at the scene, Mason initially stayed in the area but he then ran off. Officers gave chase and he was arrested.
Pointing out that prior to the violence the two groups of men didn't know each other and were from different religious backgrounds, Mr Magill suggested "each group of young men may have been wary of a situation, walking along at that time of night".
The prosecutor also revealed that Mason, who appeared in court with 42 previous convictions, was remorseful and understands the distress inflicted on the man he injured. He subsequently pleading guilty to a charge of wounding the other man.
Defence barrister Sean Mullan also branded the events leading to the glass being thrown as "unclear" - but said Mason was aware the offence was serious and has fully accepted his wrongdoing.
Mr Mullan said it was Mason's case that he was struck by someone in the larger group, which he told police, and that "something must have triggered" the incident. He added it was "a single blow and he ran off after this occurred."
The barrister told the court that whilst Mason has had issued with drink and drugs in the past, which led to him offending, he no longer consumes alcohol or illegal substances.
Mr Mullan said Mason left his employment in a furniture store to become sole carer for his ill mother, adding he had two small children.
Judge Miller spoke of the "traumatic impact, both physically and psychologically" the incident has had on the injured man.
He also spoke of Mason's background, which including him sustaining several attacks by paramilitaries for anti-social behaviour.
Handing Mason a two-year sentence, which was suspended for three years, Judge Miller concluded: "Nobody set out that night to cause trouble, but trouble did come to their respective doors."