A senior judge has issued a warning about the dangers of meeting people through the internet after she jailed a man for stabbing a woman multiple times with a potato peeler.
Allan Robert Michael Monaghan, from Damascus Street in Belfast, attacked a woman he first met days earlier on Facebook. Despite issuing a public apology to the woman in court, the victim – 27-year old Ashlene Shields – said she didn’t accept her attacker’s words and said he could have left her young sons without a mother.
Monaghan, 38, appeared at Belfast Crown Court after admitting a total of four charges arising from the stabbing, which occurred in the Holy Lands area of the city on November 12, 2012. He admitted wounding Ms Shields with intent to cause her grievous bodily harm. He also admitted assaulting police and two further counts of common assault.
Judge Philpott QC handed him a four-year sentence, half of which will be spent in prison with the remaining two years spent on supervised licence when he is released from custody. As part of his licence conditions, the judge ordered that Monaghan has no contact with Ms Shields.
Outlining the case against Monaghan, Crown prosecutor Peter Magill said Monaghan and Ms Shields initially met via social media, and that on November 7, 2012 they met in person and went to a house in the Holy Lands with a few other people during which alcohol and prescription drugs including Diazepam were consumed.
At some stage in the evening, Monaghan tore off Ms Shields’s top, prompting a man in the house to punch him. A struggle then ensued between Monaghan and Ms Shields, during which she felt pain in her upper thigh.
Mr Magill said this pain was caused by her being stabbed in the leg with a potato peeler. She subsequently sustained multiple stab wounds, including an injury to her neck and hand, and was rushed to hospital where she required sutures for the wounds.
Monaghan, who had been restrained after stabbing Ms Shields, was also taken to hospital, where he became aggressive towards staff. His aggressive behaviour included spitting blood into people’s faces, some of which landed in a person’s eye. This, Mr Magill said, constituted the assault charges and was a “frightening experience” for those concerned.
Telling Judge Philpott that Monaghan came before the court with 147 previous convictions, the prosecutor spoke of the lasting effect the stabbing has had on Ms Shields, and said the neck injury -–which has left the victim with a scar – could have been much more serious.
Defence barrister Joe Brolly said his client had a “long history” of drug addiction, which he has been addressing by attending several programmes while in custody. This, Mr Brolly said, had given Monaghan a “sense of reality and awareness for what he has done”.
Mr Brolly also read extracts from a letter Monaghan wrote to the court, in which he claims responsibility for this actions and apologised to Ms Shields.
He said: “I regret the physical and psychological harm I have caused her and the injuries I inflicted on her. I am ashamed of myself and I am sorry for what I have done to her.”
Passing sentence, Judge Philpott said: “This young lady met you through the internet and it should show the dangers of meeting people through the internet, who you know very little about, because no doubt when people are on the internet they don’t volunteer that they have a criminal record.
“The advantage of meeting people face to face is that you are likely to form a judgment on the type of person they are.”
As Monaghan was being led from the dock, Ms Shields shouted: “I don’t accept your apology, you rat.”
Speaking after sentencing was passed, the Belfast woman said she was attacked by Monaghan just three days after meeting him on Facebook.
Recalling the attack, the woman said her, Monaghan and several other people had been out watching a football match and had gone back to the Holy Lands. She claimed that when she rebuffed Monaghan, he ripped her top off then proceeded to stab her with the potato peeler.
Ms Shields said: “At first, I didn’t know I’d been stabbed. I just felt this real pain just below my bum cheek, then my neck started to hurt.”
Reiterating the fact she didn’t accept Monaghan’s apology, Ms Shields said: “He could have taken me away from my two sons.”