Northern Ireland news

Suspended sentence for man who punched schoolgirl

A 37-year-old man who punched a schoolgirl during a confrontation in east Belfast has avoided being sent to jail.

David Spence was handed a four-month suspended sentence for striking the 14-year-old victim.

A judge also ordered him to pay £400 compensation after being informed of the "profound" impact on the girl.

Spence, of Kilmuir Avenue in Dundonald, was acquitted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, but convicted on a less serious charge of common assault.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard police were called to an a fight at CS Lewis Square, off the Newtownards Road, in May this year.

Prosecutors said a 14-year-old girl told officers she had been punched in the face by a man she identified by name.

Spence was arrested at the scene and taken into custody.

According to defence barrister Richard McConkey, Spence's actions had been triggered by an alleged assault on his own daughter.

"He accepted his reaction was disproportionate, given the size and age of the person he had the altercation with," counsel submitted.

"His daughter was very, very upset at the time, and that had an impact on

the way he behaved."

District Judge Mark McGarrity stressed the seriousness of the incident.

"Given the (girl's) age, and when one looks at the photograph of the complainant, I don't really know what the defendant was thinking at the time," he said.

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