Newtownabbey men apologise to victim for racist attack

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Two men who carried out a racist attack in Belfast city centre have been handed nine-month suspended jail terms.

Mark Evans, 26, and Mark Cinnamond, 27, were also each ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to Raymond Kamanga for subjecting him to violence and abuse.

Describing their drink-fuelled actions as “disgusting”, a judge told the pair that their victim had as much right to be in Northern Ireland as them.

Cinnamond, from Queens Drive, and Evans, of Queens Avenue – both in Newtownabbey – admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm during a night out last Christmas.

Both men were due to contest the charge but entered a last-minute guilty plea at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

And, in an unusual move, they then entered the witness box to express their shame and apologise to Mr Kamanga.

Cinnamond, a computer science student at the University of Ulster, and Evans, who works for coachbuilder Wrightbus, targeted the victim after they left Thompsons Garage nightclub on December 23.

They approached him on Bedford Street telling him to “f*** off” and go back to his own country, the court heard.

In a statement Mr Kamanga said he responded to the continued abuse by insisting he lived here too and that it was was no way to treat people.

At that point the defendants became angry and chased him, one of them allegedly throwing a bottle.

Their victim recalled being punched several times to the face, and claimed he was also kicked after falling to the ground.

After his attackers fled some women came to his aid, giving him water and helping to stem the flow of blood from his nose.

“I believe they only started on me because I was black,” he said.

Mr Kamanga sustained a facial fracture, double vision and suffered from dizziness following the assault.

Prosecution counsel Stephanie Boyd alleged that after their arrest the defendants tried to portray an “outrageous” version of events involving their victim striking himself for a compensation claim.

Cinnamond’s barrister, Paul Bacon, said the attack was “disgusting, squalid and unpleasant”.

He told the court Mr Kamanga had been confronted by “a horror” as he went about his own business.

“It brings shame on Mr Cinnamond but also reflects very badly on our society which is trying to move away from such prejudice,” Mr Bacon added.

He also predicted difficulties for his client’s university course, which also involves a placement with IT company Hewlett-Packard.

Sean Mullan, for Evans, agreed that his client’s conduct had been “absolutely reprehensible”.

As their victim listened in the public gallery, both men told the court of their remorse at the racist behaviour but denied any previous displays.

Cinnamond stressed that he had black girlfriends in the past and said: “It was a moment of pure stupidity, I wish I had never said those things.

“I’m disgusted with myself... all I can do is say ‘Sorry Raymond, I wish it never happened’.”

Evans was equally contrite in the witness box, asking Mr Kamanga to accept his apology.

Judge Liam McStay told the pair they had become “loose weapons” after filling themselves with drink.

“Your offence is disgusting, you should be sorry,” he said.

“Your naked racism led directly to violence when challenged about the racist attitude you displayed,” Mr McStay continued.

“The only reason he was picked out was because of the colour of his skin, but this is his country just as much as it is yours and all the rest of us in this court.”

Explaining his reasons for suspending the prison sentence for two years, the judge said they would have been facing lengthy custody terms if they had continued to contest the charge.

After ordering them each to pay £1,000 compensation, Mr McStay told Mr Kamanga that he should not have been brought to court.

He added: “I’m sorry for the indignity and hope you feel we have dealt with this fairly.”