Northern Ireland groom's vicious bridal suite assault on new wife
A groom who kicked and punched his new wife in the bridal suite of a hotel on their wedding night has avoided being sent to prison.
Shocking details of the attack, in which Kevin Joseph McGrath also put his hands around wife Melissa's throat, emerged during a hearing at Antrim Magistrates' Court yesterday.
The court was told that it should have been the best day of their lives, but instead McGrath (28) started drinking alcohol at just 10am.
The joiner, whose address was given as Ardnaskea Drive, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, but who had been living in Desertmartin in Co Londonderry, was so drunk that he claimed he could not remember anything after the wedding meal ended at 8pm.
Police were called to the White River House Hotel in Toomebridge on October 2 after the victim fled the room and told staff her husband had attacked her. She was subsequently taken to hospital for treatment to her injuries, the details of which were not outlined to the court.
Staff then confronted McGrath and kicked him out, after which he somehow made his way home to Desertmartin.
More than two months since the incident, he has yet to see his wife or daughter again.
McGrath previously pleaded guilty to a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm on his wife, and was back in court for sentencing yesterday.
He sat quietly as a prosecutor said police attended the hotel at 5am after receiving a report a bride had been assaulted by her new husband.
Melissa told officers she had been "scolding" her husband for being sick on the floor when the attack happened.
She explained that as her husband lay on the bed, he put his hands around her throat, "hurting her" and causing her to feel "very scared".
After she was discharged from hospital, she told police that the defendant had kicked and punched her a number of times before going to sleep.
Photographs of the victims' injuries were also shown to District Judge Alan White.
The prosecutor said McGrath told police he had no memory of events after 8pm on his wedding day and could not account for the injuries to his new wife.
Defence barrister Michael Ward admitted the case contained a "very disturbing set of circumstances".
He explained that the couple had been in a relationship for four years, getting engaged in 2013, and had a young daughter together.
The barrister added that what was "supposed to be a very special day for them" and their families ended in disaster because McGrath drank too much.
Mr Ward told the court that the defendant was stressed out during the run-up to the wedding and said there were incidents on the day itself such as the Best Man "taking himself elsewhere" and issues about the music being played by the DJ, which caused "some frustration".
He explained McGrath had been drinking from "10am right through" and added: "He can't remember anything after the meal."
Mr Ward said his client was lying in bed when hotel staff woke him up and told him to get out of the building because he had assaulted his wife. "After being kicked out he doesn't know how he got to Desertmartin," the barrister told the court.
He said McGrath's wife said her husband was "bad-tempered" and "stubborn", but she never would have described him as violent before the flare-up on what should have been the "best day of their lives".
Mr Ward said McGrath wished to unreservedly apologise to his wife, and added that since the incident he has had no contact with her or his daughter.
"He has lost everything as a result of what happened," the lawyer told the court.
The hearing was told the joiner had saved £7,000 to pay for the wedding and "through alcohol consumption, he has thrown everything in his life away".
In mitigation, Mr Ward stressed that his client had made full admissions and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
He said there was no explanation for the violence as McGrath had no history of such offending.
District Judge White said he had to give the defendant credit for the guilty plea and a clear record, but insisted it was an "extremely serious assault".
He added that the courts took domestic violence very seriously and called the incident "a very sad commentary on the effects of alcohol when taken to excess, especially on what is meant to be the best day of your life".
The judge said he was reluctant to send the first-time offender to prison because that would not help him in potentially re-building the relationship with his wife.
Instead, he put him on probation for two years and ordered him to take part in a relationship programme and carry out 100 hours of community service.
Judge White also ordered the defendant to pay £300 compensation to his wife and warned McGrath the sentence was "a direct alternative to immediate custody".
The judge added: "Most people - no matter how badly they behave - deserve one chance in life".