A father of two who bit off another man’s thumb whilst being attacked with golf clubs was spared jail on Friday after it was accepted he acted the way he did in a case of “excessive self defence.”
Curtis Morrow admitted causing grievous bodily harm to his then partner’s father, and also of assaulting her brother in the same incident.
Morrow, from Dundela Court, was handed a combination order consisting of 100 hours community service and a two-year probation order by Judge Patricia Smyth, who warned him that if he breached the order he will “go to prison immediately.”
Belfast Crown Court heard that when the altercation took place on April 7 last year, Morrow, 25, was in a relationship with the injured man’s daughter.
On the evening in question, a male called to the father’s house claiming his daughter was being attacked in her Cloverfield Street home by Morrow. The court heard that at the time, the woman lived with her three-year old and daughter was pregnant with her second child to Morrow.
After being told that her daughter was being attacked, both the father and his son armed themselves with golf clubs and walked a short distance from their house to hers.
Belfast Crown Court heard that this claim of the woman being attacked by Morrow was in fact untrue. However, after entering the house both father and son began attacking Morrow with the golf clubs.
Prosecuting barrister Kate McKay said that during the violent confrontation, the father “became concerned for his son’s welfare” as he believed Morrow was about to bite his son’s ear.
Mrs McKay said that in order to prevent this happened, the father stuck his thumb in Morrow’s mouth in a bid to pull Morrow’s mouth away from his son’s ear.
At this point during the fight, Morrow bit down on the man’s thumb and shook his head from side to side. The older man tried to pull his thumb out of Morrow’s mouth, and when he did, he realised the top third of his thumb had been severed off.
Telling the court that “unfortunately the thumb could not be re-attached”, Mrs McKay said the injured has resulted in a “permanent disability” for the injured man, including impacting on everyday tasks such as tying his shoelaces.
Morrow – who sustained a number of serious injuries during the altercation including a broken foot - was arrested, and from his arrest until today, he has always made the case that he acted in self-defence after he was attacked by two men wielding weapons.
The prosecutor told Judge Smyth that it was accepted Morrow acted in self-defence, but that his actions were disproportionate and excessive.
She also revealed that Morrow had a criminal record which demonstrated “violent tendencies” and which included incidents of domestic violence.
Defence barrister Richard McConkey said that rather his client being the aggressor, instead he was “a man fighting for his life.”
Pointing out that the violent incident was sparked by a lie made to the pregnant woman’s father and brother, Mr McConkey said Morrow accepted he caused the thumb injury, said he acted in self-defence but is now aware it was self-defence “gone to far.”
He told the court: “Mr Morrow didn’t go looking for trouble that night. What his partner’s father and brother were told was wrong, but they went round fired up, with weapons, and attacked him. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be in court today.”
The defence barrister read part of Morrow’s partner’s statement to police, in which she states her father, brother and Morrow were “all on top of each other” and that she “heard Curtis squealing.”
In an incident she said lasted around two minutes, the woman said: “They got up and my dad was shouting for someone to pick up his thumb and Curtis was standing with blood around his mouth.”
Regarding his client, Mr McConkey said Morrow suffered from a personality disorder with anti-social traits which was exacerbated by substance misuse.
Pointing out Morrow has already served the equivalent of an eight-month prison sentence, Mr McConkey suggest that “society and Mr Morrow may benefit if there was a Probation order in this case.”
Passing sentence, Judge Smyth said that whilst she accepted Morrow was not the initial aggressor, the use of his teeth could be considered as using a weapon. She also told Morrow he displayed a lack of insight into both his offending, and the consequences of his actions.
Handing Morrow a combination order, the judge said that as part of his probation he should attend the “intensive” Building Better Relationships programme.
Any breach of the order, the Judge warned, would result in immediate jail.