A man contesting a charge against him of common assault on a juvenile who was aged 13 at the time of the incident, has been given an absolute discharge in the case after the Judge found the young complainant ‘evasive’ and lacking ‘credibility’.
Appearing via video link to Coleraine Magistrates Court sitting in Ballymena (May 7), the defendant Ian Service (43) of Laurel Hill Coleraine was alleged to have assaulted the 13-year-old complainant, now 15, on November 4, 2018, by grabbing him by the arm.
The complainant, who can’t be named due to his age, said he had left his house after returning home briefly from the Jet Centre Coleraine to get a coat.
Near to a local chip shop the complainant, who was along with a friend, alleged that the defendant grabbed him ‘aggressively’ by the upper arm for about two minutes and that he appeared ‘angry’.
The complainant described to the court how the defendant began walking him down the street whilst still holding his arm leaving him feeling ‘scared’, telling the court at that stage a neighbour witnessed what was happening and shouted at the defendant.
The complainant told the court he got away briefly before the defendant grabbed hold of him again for a second time, but eventually got away and ran off.
Defence Barrister Michael Smith asked the complainant was he aware of a local resident – who was named to the court – and if he was aware that they had a disability. The young complainant told the court yes he did know the resident as a neighbour but didn’t know they had a disability.
The defence put it to the complainant that the only reason that his client had any dealings with him and his friend was that he had observed the complainant at this particular neighbours house knocking on their door and running off, to which the complainant acknowledged to the court that he had. Asked why he had done this, he replied; “as a joke”.
Before concluding his evidence to the court, District Judge Peter King reminded the young complainant of the promise he had given to the court at the beginning to tell the truth, asking him again did he know this neighbour had a disability, to which the complainant repeated he didn’t.
Also giving evidence in his case via video link, the defendant said that he had observed seeing the complainant and his friend from his window at a neighbours house – who he knew to be disabled – and that the complainant was banging on the neighbours front door before making off, at which point the defendant said he left his home to pursue both children, shouting to the neighbour in question to call the police.
The defendant told the court that once he caught up with the children he grabbed both around the shoulder area by their coats, but denied grabbing the complainant by the arm.
Also disputing the complainants version of events that a neighbour shouted at him, the defendant said that a lady had pulled up in a car asking if everything was ok before driving off again.
The court heard that another man also approached the defendant, again asking if everything ok, and after an explanation of what had went on offered to help detain the children till the police arrived, to which the defendant declined the offer.
Challenging that the complainant evidence that he had tried to escape twice, the defendant told the court they only made off once, both in different directions and that he chose to pursue the complainant but after 10-15 meters gave up, This in contrast to the complainant’s version that both he and his friend made off in the same direction.
Asked by the Prosecution why he didn’t just wait for the Police or approach the complainant’s parents, the defendant said he wanted them to ‘account’ for their actions and apologise, describing that he had witnessed this neighbour being targeted and called names in the past, describing her as being ‘tortured’.
Concluding the hearing, Judge King said that he didn’t believe that the complainant wouldn’t have known his neighbour had a disability which put in questioned his credibility to the court, commenting that he ‘vastly preferred’ the defendant’s version of the event finding the complainant ‘evasive and without a significant degree of credibility.
In making his ruling, Judge King called the defendant an ‘honest witness’ and an ‘engaged member of the public’ but told the court he could not see a defence in the case, regardless of the defendant’s motives for his actions, and in admitting to grabbing the complainant by the coat he had committed a ‘technical assault’.
Judge King upheld the charge of common assault and sentenced the defendant to an absolute discharge meaning that despite being found guilty of the charge, the Judge felt no punishment was necessary in the case.