Northern Ireland news

Man (26) jailed for 'merciless' attack on friend in north Belfast

Patrick Martin Johnston, of no fixed abode, was handed a six-year sentence which will be divided equally between custody and licence

A 26-year-old man has been jailed for a "merciless" attack on a friend in which 14 kicks were aimed at the victim's head.

After watching CCTV footage of the attack - which took place both inside and outside Grainne House in the New Lodge area of north Belfast - Judge Patricia Smyth branded it "truly shocking".

Handing Patrick Martin Johnston, of no fixed abode, a six-year sentence which will be divided equally between custody and licence, she said: "It was a merciless, sustained attack which could easily have resulted in a fatal injury."

Belfast Crown Court heard there was no medical evidence provided to the court regarding the injuries and the victim refused to co-operate with police.

Prosecutor Gareth Purvis played footage of the assault on August 10 2018 which showed the two men arguing in a hallway.

He said while the injured party was initially the aggressor, throwing punches and advancing, Johnston's actions went "well beyond" an appropriate response.

Once he had knocked the other man to the ground, he kicked him up to 14 times as he lay prone and stamped on him.

The prosecutor said "despite a break of a minute or two" when the injured man got to his feet and exited the flats, the attack continued in the car park where Johnston again brought him to the ground and kicked him.

His mother has disclosed that he has been left with scarring to his head and face.

Johnston admitted a charge of wounding with intent to cause the injured party grievous bodily harm.

Defence barrister Peter Irvine said prior to the fight, the two men had been friends for a "lengthy period" and the injured party had been staying with a relative of Johnston.

He said it was clear both men were under the influence at the time, and Johnston told Probation he had been taking cocaine.

Mr Irvine also spoke of Johnston's history of poor mental health.

Noting that he had failed a drugs tests whilst in custody, Judge Smyth recommended that he attend counselling and treatment programmes to address his addictions.

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