Northern Ireland news

Hammer attack man spared jail

The man was given a Community Service Order after a judge was told of "extenuating circumstances"

A NORTH Belfast bar manager who armed himself with a hammer and attacked a robber he caught going through his mother's handbag has been spared jail. 

Ciaran Morgan (34), of Bruslee Way in north Belfast, was ordered to perform 160 hours of community service after a judge was told of "extenuating circumstances".

The 21-year-old injured party and an accomplice had robbed and attacked Morgan's mother and her partner in a "brutal" late-night assault as the couple walked home from a friend's house, Belfast Crown Court heard. The couple, both in their fifties, were attacked from behind, brought to the ground and repeatedly kicked. They sustained injuries to their faces, torsos and backs. A handbag was stolen from the woman. Her partner's coat was stolen from him.

The attack occurred in the New Lodge area around midnight on February 10 2016. When the couple arrived home, Morgan armed himself with a hammer, left the house and found the robber wearing the stolen coat. He confronted the 21-year-old and struck him with the hammer, knocking teeth out, breaking bones in both his hands and causing cuts to his scalp that required staples. When Morgan was arrested he initially gave a false account to police. He later admitted a charge of causing grievous bodily harm.

Defence barrister Martin Morgan said his client's motivation for confronting the robber was to retrieve his mother's handbag. His mother recognised the 21-year-old as someone from the area. The injured party has convictions including for robbery, assault, burglary and hijacking, the court heard.

"Mr Ciaran Morgan is a man with no previous convictions and nothing pending against him. This was two people going about their business who were set upon in such a vicious way," the barrister said.

"They weren't just robbed but they were also attacked and humiliated by the injured party in this case. She got home in a very distressed state and said she had her handbag taken off her by force. She was worried about her house keys and other personal items she had in her bag. 

"She was concerned the injured party... could have access to her home. The defendant reacted and it was an impulsive reaction. He armed himself with a hammer as a sense of self-protection as he could see the injuries caused to his mother and stepfather.

"His motive for going out was to get the bag back. It was by sheer chance he came upon the injured party, who was wearing his stepfather's jacket, and he could see him and another man going through this mother's handbag. This was an unforeseen set of circumstances."

The court was told that Morgan had no previous convictions. Judge David McFarland said "this was not a vigilante attack" and spoke of Morgan's good work record. The judge said he accepted that Morgan's decision to lift the hammer before leaving the house had been more in self-protection than aggression. He told Morgan "you have accepted your conduct was inappropriate" and compared his clear criminal record to that of the injured party - which consists of 52 previous offences.

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