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Man has jail sentence overturned for headbutting girlfriend at New Year's party

Vicious assault took place at Portballintrae Boat Club

A man who headbutted his girlfriend before kicking her in the stomach as she lay on the ground at a New Year's Eve party, has had his jail sentence overturned.

Gary Alan McKendry (22), an apprentice joiner of Heronshaw, Bushmills, attacked the woman at Portballintrae Boat Club on the north coast after being out for the night on December 31, 2015.

At Coleraine Magistrates' Court in January he was given four months in jail on a single charge of common assault but was released on bail to appeal the sentence.

Last month, District Judge Liam McNally said it was as bad a case of its kind he had ever heard and said he would have been failing in his duty to anyone who has suffered domestic violence if he had not imposed the prison term.

McKendry appealed the sentence to the County Court, which sat in Coleraine this week, where the jail term was overturned and replaced with four months, suspended for three years.

He was also ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to his ex.

The magistrates' court had been told in January that McKendry had previous convictions for attacking the same woman and also another partner.

A prosecutor said the injured woman was out with McKendry at a family gathering in Coleraine before going to the Boat Club and an argument ensued over a cash card.

The woman told police McKendry grabbed her arm and then when she was outside in a smoking area he headbutted her before kicking her four times in the stomach as she was on the ground.

He then threw her bag towards a harbour. She was left with a scar on her nose.

Defence solicitor Fergus McIntosh told the court last month that McKendry accepted full responsibility for what happened and that although he had a criminal record, since his last appearance in court he has "turned his life around".

The lawyer said alcohol had been a major factor in his client's life but he no longer drinks and is trying to get fit to play football for Bushmills.

He said the couple are no longer together and a Non-Molestation Order is now in place between McKendry and the injured woman.

Jailing McKendry in January, Judge McNally said the defendant had headbutted the woman to the extent that her nose bled and she was left scarred and he had kicked her in the stomach when she fell.

Last month the judge agreed to the defence application for McKendry to be released on bail of £500 pending appeal after asking what reassurances could be given as there was a "very grave danger" he would commit further assaults on women.

Mr McIntosh said his client was single; with the Non-Molestation Order in place and he would be "under the watchful eye of his mother".

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