Belfast Telegraph

Man guilty of assault on girl (17) at Tyrone nightclub claimed it was 'horseplay gone too far'

By Staff Reporter

A 23-year-old man has been found guilty of assaulting a teenage female staff member in a nightclub, in what he claimed was "horseplay which went too far".

Following a contested hearing at Dungannon Magistrates' Court, the judge accepted that, whilst there was intimate contact with the victim, it was unintentional, however the rationale for challenging the charge remained questionable.

Tiernan Hughes, of Crumlin Road, Belfast, was charged with assaulting the young victim on November 8, 2015. He was in the VIP area of a Cookstown nightclub, drinking with a group of friends in an atmosphere which was described as "boisterous and energetic".

During the course of the evening, the victim was clearing tables when Hughes grabbed her from behind by the hips and lifted her high in the air. The girl's head struck a railing, and she repeatedly asked him to put her down. However, Hughes then placed his right hand between her legs and turned her toward him, with his face in her chest area. The victim was being thrown up and down by Hughes whilst his friends cheered him on, the court heard.

The teenager was terrified as she suffers from epilepsy and, after breaking free, reported the matter to her manager.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, the victim, who was 17 at the time, was tearful and struggled to recount the incident.

Her manager immediately called in the nightclub owner who alerted police and ordered the victim to be taken to another part of the premises, the court heard.

On arrival, a female police officer found the victim to be very shaken and, as well as sustaining a head injury, she had vomited. She also reported bruising and bleeding from where she had been grabbed. She was taken to Craigavon Area Hospital for treatment.

Meanwhile, Hughes was detained by a member of door staff who confirmed he was fully compliant and described the incident as "just a bit of craic".

He told police: "We (him and his friends) were engaging in horseplay all evening. I took advantage of a staff member but it was just horseplay that got out of hand. I was acting like a drunken idiot."

He agreed his actions were wrong and such behaviour was unacceptable. Despite this, Hughes went on to deny the charge when it came to court.

Ruling immediately, Judge Meehan ordered a conviction and said: "This was assault and a good deal more than unlawful touching. I do agree it was not sexualised, but it was intimate. I really don't know why the defendant chose to contest this. Not only is the impact on the victim to this day still evident, there is a failure to recognise what assault is."

Hughes was told to return to court on October 25 for sentencing.

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