Belfast Telegraph

Fury as ex-boxer Damaen Kelly avoids prison for assault on wife

By Michael Donnelly and Louise Small

Women's groups have hit out at the penalty handed to former world champion boxer Damaen Kelly for attacking his ex-wife.

Kelly walked free from court yesterday, avoiding a custodial sentence for the drunken assault on his wife Margaret (below).

The west Belfast man (39) was given 120 hours community service and two years probation.

The sentence has been branded “too lenient”.

Kelly — a former IBO and WBF flyweight world champion — appeared in court yesterday where Judge Gordon Kerr QC told him that a community-based penalty would be more appropriate than prison in his case.

Judge Kerr also told Kelly, from Monagh Road, Belfast, that he agreed with the jury's decision last month to acquit him of the more serious offence of wounding his former wife with intent to cause her grievous bodily harm.

However, he later added that it must have been a “terrifying and horrific experience” for the victim, compounded by the fact it was carried out in front of their youngest child.

The divorced father-of-four admitted initially assaulting his wife Margaret during a drunken row at the south Belfast home they had shared on April 9, 2009, after she had told him she wanted out of their marriage.

Judge Kerr said Kelly had the opportunity to collect and calm himself after this initial assault, but instead continued drinking and to brood, before bursting into their bedroom to attack her again.

In the past, said the judge, Kelly had been an “excellent boxer,” but that having to return to a normal working life must have taken its toll.

Judge Kerr said Kelly also suffered from an unstable psychiatric background.

The court heard that after the attack, the boxer had stabbed himself and could have bled to death but for the quick intervention of police and ambulance personnel.

Defence SC Philip Magee said Kelly had been unable to cope emotionally with the perception of his wife having an affair with one of her lecturers, and even more so when she indicated she wanted to put an end to their marriage.

Mr Magee said the incident had cost Kelly “his marriage, his children, his home” and that he was well aware that what he did “was completely unacceptable”.

He said all Kelly was asking was for the court to show mercy as it often did in such cases where the accused was a “first offender”.

However, Women’s Aid Federation Northern Ireland director Annie Campbell said: “I’m glad he has been convicted of assault.

“However, in view of the severity of the attack, for him not to have received a custodial sentence seems incredible.”

Regional organiser for UK Feminista, Michael Moore, said: “The sentencing of Damaen Kelly is a clear indication that the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland is too lenient in dealing with domestic violence.”

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