Mother of two jailed for biting woman’s ear

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A Dunmurry mother of two who admitted biting the ear of a woman she claims was somehow involved in a shooting which left her brother in a wheelchair has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years.

However, Judge Geoffrey Miller told Joanna Hanna Gavin, given her family circumstances, her own vulnerability and the considerable help she will need upon her release from prison, she will serve only 18 months custody.

The 41-year-old, from Helenswood Court, admitted wounding the other woman during an incident at a flat in north Belfast in May last year, but claimed she was acting in self-defence, and denied she intended to cause any real harm.

But following a one-day trial in June, a jury convicted her of the more serious charge of wounding her victim with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. However, they did acquit her of threatening to kill the mother of eight.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Miller said the facts surrounding the incident “were confused, with accusation and counter accusation, levelled by and against the complainant”. But, what was “clear beyond doubt” Gavin had bitten the woman’s ear, and while “this would have caused considerable trauma, though mercifully there is little evidence of long-lasting damage”.

Judge Miller said while Gavin persisted in her claims of self-defence during interview with probation, she did accept her guilt and “expresses shame for her actions, citing excessive consumption of alcohol as being a contributory factor”.

He added that Gavin has responsibility for the care of her brother injured in a shooting three years ago, “and indeed it is this incident that forms the background to the defendant’s antipathy towards the injured party, whom she blames for being in some way associated with it”.

Judge Miller said he was also taking into account the “conflicting nature of the evidence with regards to how the incident started and the fact that on certain aspects, particularly with regard to her level of intoxication, the complainant’s evidence was less than satisfactory”.