Man’s earlobe partially severed in pub brawl

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An oil rigger who glassed a fellow reveller at a Co Down pub which resulted in the victim sustaining a partially severed earlobe was handed a suspended sentence on Tuesday.

Rory Murray, 38, from Windmill Street in Ballynahinch, was also ordered to pay his victim £2,000 in compensation, while a five-year restraining order was put in place banning him from making contact with the other man.

Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard the two men had punched each other several times prior to the glassing after becoming involved in a confrontation in a bar in Crossgar on the evening of December 23, 2012.

Murray – who has 72 previous convictions – was initially charged with wounding with intent and went to trial in Downpatrick earlier this year.

However, after a day’s evidence was heard in front of a jury, Murray was rearraigned on a lesser charge of wounding. He entered a guilty plea, which was accepted by the Crown, and on Tuesday he was sentenced.

Crown prosecutor Joseph Murphy told the court that on the evening in question, both men had been socialising in The Villager in Crossgar when the victim approached Murray as he stood talking to a woman having a cigarette.

An altercation between the two men then took place, during which both men punched each other in the stomach. The victim then walked away but came back to where Murray was standing.

A second confrontation broke out, resulting in both men “grappling” and exchanging further punches. During this violent altercation, Murray struck the other man with a glass, which collided with the side of his face and which resulted in a portion of his left earlobe being severed.

Mr Murphy said police were called to the scene. By the time they arrived, Murray was no longer in the pub, but he was arrested at his home on New Year’s Day.

During interview, Murray – who works on the North Sea oil rigs – accepted he was in the pub on the night in question but claimed he was punched by the other man as he stood talking to a woman.

Defence barrister Conor O’Kane pointed out that the injured man accepted there was “banter” between him and Murray “before things turned nasty” and branded them punching each other in the stomach as “a macho escapade they were involved in”.

Regarding the second confrontation between the two men, Mr O’Kane said it was “quite clear that before the glassing ... there were punches from both sides”, adding the glassing itself was accidental and “not a deliberate act”. The barrister said: “The glass was in his [Murray’s] hand, and in the heat of the moment, he may have struck out, not realising he had the glass.”

Telling the court Murray was “ashamed of what happened”, he said his client was trying to turn his life around and address issues he had. This, Mr O’Kane said, included attending anger management classes.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said the incident has had a lasting physical and psychological effect on the victim. He also acknowledged Murray’s remorse and the fact he had taken “positive steps along the path to a more positive future”.

The judge handed Murray a 28-month prison sentence, which was suspended for three years.