Men who assaulted fireman avoid jail term

editorial image

Two men who assaulted a fireman outside a Tesco Metro store in Belfast which resulted in a “nasty” leg fracture evaded a prison sentence after appearing in court today.

Ryan Clarke and Conor Patrick Martin Duffy, who are both 22, appeared at Belfast Crown Court where they admitted a charge of assaulting the fireman and causing him actual bodily harm, on September 3, 2014.

The court heard that whilst Duffy initially attacked the man, Clarke joined in the assault when the victim was on the ground. The court also heard that the leg injury was caused as the fireman fell to the ground.

Both men were handed suspended sentences by Judge Geoffery Millar, who warned them that if they offended within the next two years, they would be recalled back to court and would serve the sentences imposed.

Duffy, who is now living in Highfield Avenue in Essex, was given a two-year sentence which was suspended for two years, whilst Clarke, from Sliabh Dubh Walk in the Ballymurphy area, was given an 18-month sentence which was also suspended for two years.

Prior to sentencing, Crown prosecutor Philip Henry said the incident occurred outside the Tesco Metro supermarket on the Dublin Road.

At around 9pm on the evening in question, the off-duty fireman had gone to the shop to purchase goods - and at the same time Duffy and Clarke were being removed from the premises by security guards.

As the staff members were trying to remove the pair, “words were exchanged” between the pair and the injured party during which Duffy was said to “goad” the other man. As the incident spilled out onto the footpath, Duffy assaulted the other man which caused both men to fall to the ground. It was during this fall, the Crown say, that the fireman sustained a “nasty fracture” to his left leg which subsequently required surgery.

Mr Henry said that whilst on the ground, the injured party was subjected to a “number of blows” and was both kicked and punched.

Police sought to locate Duffy and Clarke, and as police approached them in nearby Botanic Avenue, Duffy remained while Clarke ran off.

When Duffy was interviewed, he initially gave a ‘no comment’ response. However, when he was re-interviewed, Duffy admitted he had been in a “scuffle” but told police he didn’t intend injuring anyone and was drunk.

Clarke was arrested six months after the assault. He also denied involvement but later admitted his guilt.

Defence barrister Joel Linsday, representing Clarke, accepted the incident was “nasty” and something which his client shouldn’t have got involved in.

Revealing Clarke has some mental health issues, Mr Linsday pointed out that his client has already served time on remand for the incident.

Solicitor Brendan Blaney, representing Duffy, said that since the incident his client has given up alcohol and is now living and working with relatives in Essex.

Saying Duffy “made a conscious decision to turn his life around”, Mr Blaney said Duffy “removed himself” from negative influences and is now living in England where he “immerses himself ... working in the construction industry.”

Passing sentence, Judge Millar accepted the attack on “a man who was going about his business” was serious.

The Judge also said he hoped the injured man had made a full recovery from his leg injury and was able to return to his “important work in the community as a fire officer”.