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Irish soldier fled over border after beating up mother of children

By Ashleigh McDonald

An Irish soldier who took the "coward's way out" and skipped across the border after attacking his former partner in Northern Ireland has been ordered to pay her £1,000 in compensation.

Judge Patricia Smyth told 29-year-old Shane Derry from Many Down Close, Red Barnes Road in Dundalk, that she was suspending an 18-month sentence for three years, stating the attack was "out of character'' and he had no history of violence.

The court heard Derry was extradited to Northern Ireland from an Eastern European prison after refusing to assist with a PSNI investigation.

The judge said domestic violence was a "scourge on our society'', but added that sending Derry to prison would lead to him being dismissed from the Irish Army and he would not be able to financially provide for his 12-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

Derry had pleaded guilty to assaulting his former partner and mother of three of his children, occasioning her actual bodily harm on December 9, 2014, after she had refused to drive him to an off-licence.

Prosecutor Kate McKay had told the court that Derry had attacked his former partner not once, but twice, the second time after she had gone for help from a neighbour. On that occasion Derry threw her to the floor, punching her about the head and face which fortunately caused no fractures, but left her with muscular whiplash type injuries.

Ms McKay said a probation report indicated it seemed to have been a loss of temper on Derry's part at a time when the relationship was coming to an end, and was not believed to have been pre-planned or premeditated.

Defence barrister Joseph O'Keefe said Derry was "entirely ashamed and full of regret and remorse", could not face up to what he done and "ran away in a cowardly fashion", and returned to the Irish army.

He added Derry had "buried his head in the sand", but references indicated that his attack was totally out of character and hard for others to understand why it occurred.

Mr O'Keefe said Derry's real focus in life was the Irish army, a career he would lose if jailed immediately. However, if not, he would still face disciplinary proceedings.

At a sentencing hearing yesterday, Judge Patricia Smyth said in a victim impact report, the mother of his three young children said she had suffered psychologically as a result of the assault.

"However, the extent of this impact as a result of the assault is alleged to be far reaching on your partner, but it is not supported by any medical evidence and because of that the weight I can give to her victim impact report is considerably reduced,'' said the judge.

"There is no doubt, however, that this was a frightening and distressing attack on your partner both at the time and thereafter while continuing to care for your three young children on her own whilst suffering considerable discomfort in her jaw.''

Judge Smyth said one of the main aggravating factors in the case was that the assault was carried out in a domestic context.

In mitigation, she said that she had received no less than 10 references, including a letter about his conduct in the Irish army whilst serving in Central Africa and the humanitarian work he had carried out there while on a tour of the Republic of Chad.

The judge also referred to a reference to a former partner by whom Derry had a 12-year-old daughter saying there had been no domestic violence in their relationship and described the assault as "totally out of character''.

Judge Smyth told the court: "I am satisfied having read the references that this attack was out of character. It is absolutely clear that you have discharged your fatherly duties to your 12-year-old daughter and provided for her financially until you were suspended from the Irish army pending a disciplinary hearing."

The judge took issue with Derry's claim to police at the time of his arrest when he alleged that he had acted in self defence. "This was entirely untrue.''

Judge Smyth added: "It is not in your favour that you left Northern Ireland and returned to your home in Dundalk and refused to return to assist with a criminal investigation. A European Arrest warrant was issued to have you extradited.

"You spent three weeks in a Lithuanian jail following the execution of that warrant. Whilst conditions in Lithuanian prisons have improved, no doubt your incarceration was a salutary lesson to you.''

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