Man with 163 previous convictions jailed for attacking young woman and trying to steal her car keys

The entrance to the skate park at Corporation Street, Belfast. Pic by Google
The entrance to the skate park at Corporation Street, Belfast. Pic by Google
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A Belfast man who assaulted and attempted to rob a 21-year-old woman close to the city’s skate park was handed a three-year sentence today.

Seamus Shortt claimed he was spiked by a friend who then persuaded him to approach the woman in a violent incident which occurred earlier this year.

As well as bringing her to the ground and trying to steal her car keys, Shortt then attacked two males who came to her assistance.

From Bruslee Way, the 34-year-old admitted three offences arising from the incident, namely attempted robbery and two counts of assault.

He was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court by Judge Philip Gilpin, who spoke of the “distress” he caused.

Shortt, who has 163 previous convictions, was told he will spend half the sentence in custody, followed by an 18-month period on supervised licence.

Before he sentenced Shortt, Judge Gilpin was told the incident occurred around 11pm, when the 21-year-old parked her car beside the skate park at Corporation Street.

A male friend noticed two men, one of whom was Shortt, walking across the car park. Shortt then approached the woman from behind, grabbed her by the neck and brought her to the ground.

Demanding that she hand over her car keys, Shortt then lay on top of her and pinned her to the ground. He also rummaged through her coat pocket in a bid to get the keys.

Prosecuting barrister James Johnston said during the incident, the young woman “curled up in a ball on the ground to protect herself.”

Shortt then struck her on the side of the mouth and banged her head off the ground, and at this point a male friend intervened in a bid to stop the attack on his friend.

After being pulled off the woman, Shortt turned his attention to the male, who he punched. When a second male tried to help, he was also assaulted.

Mr Johnston said Shortt and his accomplice then left the car park but remained closeby “taunting” the others. Police were called, and when officers arrived and arrested Shortt, he was identified at the scene by the woman.

During interview, Shortt denied the offences and instead made the case he was engaged in “banter” with the woman and her friends. He also denied the physical altercation with the woman, telling police “at no stage did I go near any female.”

Shortt continued the denials but later changed his pleas to “guilty.”

Defence barrister Barry Gibson described the incident as a “street mugging” which his client regrets.

Mr Gibson revealed Shortt told a Probation Officer he got involved at the behest of a friend, who spiked his drink with drugs then persuaded him to engage with a woman who his friend claimed owed him money.

Noting Shortt’s “extensive criminal record”, which he said was “linked to drink and drug misuse”, Mr Gibson said his client was working in the recycling centre in prison, and has passed drugs tests.

Passing sentence, the Judge told Shortt: “The injured party was a young woman who was attacked at night. You did more than simply threaten her with physical violence, as you inflicted violence not only on her but her friends.”