Man jailed for city centre assault on teen

Court case
Court case

A man who attacked a youth in Belfast city centre while high on solvents was jailed for six months on Tuesday.

Alan Ponisi, 28, punched the 16-year-old victim on the mouth, chipping his teeth, and spat in his face.

He was handed a four-month jail term after admitting a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

District Judge Amanda Henderson also imposed a further two months from a previously suspended sentence for a separate disorderly behaviour incident.

Ponisi, of Springfield Road in the city, was arrested within an hour of the attack last October.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard a group of five people went up to the victim as he sat on a bench at Custom House Square.

One of them pushed and spat on him before inflicting a number of blows to the face, a prosecution lawyer said.

Defence solicitor John Finucane told the court Ponisi has been battling to turn his life around.

“On that day he had been under the influence of solvents, that’s something he has struggled with,” he said.

As the defendant stood in the dock with his arm in a cast, Mr Finucane also revealed that he had been the victim of an “horrific” assault himself.

“He described to me that he was stabbed, but it’s like someone butchered large lumps out of his arm,” the lawyer claimed.

“He has seen directly what being the victim of violent crime feels like.”

But despite Ponisi’s guilty plea Judge Henderson insisted he had to be jailed for what she described as a serious and unprovoked attack.

She said: “When you approach a 16-year-old in the city centre as a group of five, (causing him) swelling to the lip, chipped teeth and being spat upon, there’s no doubt that merits a custodial sentence.”

After ordering Ponisi to serve a total of six months behind bars she granted bail pending an appeal against the sentence.

A drug and alcohol ban was imposed as part of his release conditions.