Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Jail term for man who stamped on boy's head 'too lenient' - court hears

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The prison sentence imposed on a 20-year-old man who stamped on a boy's head in front of town centre shoppers was too lenient, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

Senior judges ordered Steven Doherty's jail term to be increased from eight months to two years for the "chilling" attack in Coleraine, Co Londonderry.

Doherty, then aged 18 and from Queen's Court in the town, was with two other youths who targeted their victim in December 2011.

The boy was knocked to the ground and fell down a set of steps as he waited for his bus at a shopping arcade close to the Diamond area.

Doherty delivered several athletic stamping kicks to his head as he tried to protect himself, the court heard.

The youngest attacker, then aged 14 and who cannot be named, also punched and kicked the victim repeatedly about the head and body.

The third defendant, Todd Andrew Newton, 19, of Bellany Crescent, Coleraine, was said to have delivered two less forceful kicks before taking no further active part.

Although the victim suffered only an abrasion to his head and was able to summon help from a passing police officer, judges said it was due to good fortune that he was not seriously injured.

All three defendants pleaded guilty to attempted grievous bodily harm with intent at Antrim Court Court.

Doherty was given a three year sentence, split between eight months custody and twenty-eight months on licence.

Newton received twelve months detention, suspended for three years, while the youngest defendant was given six months in a juvenile justice centre followed by six months supervision.

The sentences were referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Public Prosecution Service.

Delivering judgment today, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "The learned trial judge correctly stated that the manner in which this young boy was set upon by these three offenders was chilling to watch and must have engendered considerable fear in those who were unfortunate enough to see the incident develop.

"Members of the public had to run from the bottom of the steps to avoid getting caught up in the attack and the vicious nature and intensity of the kicking was the undoubted reason why no member of the public felt able to go to the rescue of the injured party."

Ruling the sentence imposed on Doherty to be unduly lenient, Sir Declan pointed out: "He was the instigator of the incident and played an active and leading role."

The judge imposed a new four-year term, split between two years custody and two years on licence.

Dealing with the youngest defendant, the judge said it was shocking to see someone of his age involved in such a vicious attack.

He ordered him to instead serve a two year juvenile justice centre order.

Newton's sentence was also held to be unduly lenient, with his suspended sentence increased from one to three years.

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