Pair involved in 'degrading and sordid' attack on woman have their prison sentences reduced
A man and woman jailed for roles in a "sordid and degrading" head-shaving attack on an unconscious victim have won appeals against their sentences.
Senior judges in Belfast ruled that the original five-year term imposed on Paul Joshua Balmer for shearing the woman was manifestly excessive.
The 42-year-old heroin addict will instead now serve four years, half in custody and half on licence.
His 22-year-old accomplice Paula Wilson, who filmed the attack on a mobile phone, had her sentence reduced from 32 to 24 months - again split equally between periods in detention and on licence.
Both were part of a gang involved in the incident at a flat in Ballymena, Co Antrim, in May 2013.
The Court of Appeal heard how the victim, a woman in her 30s, passed out after drinking two bottles of vodka. When she awoke her eyebrows and half of the hair on her head had been shaved off.
She continued drinking until she passed out again, discovering later that she was completely bald.
Police later seized a mobile phone belonging to Wilson, formerly of Main Street in Cullybackey, Co Antrim.
It revealed footage of three men laughing and joking as they dry-shaved their victim.
At one point Balmer, with a previous address at Crosshill View in Kells, Co Antrim, can be heard saying: "There's no point in going easy on her."
He then states: "I'm a democratic sort of person, if yous want me to baldy her, I'll baldy her."
In the footage Wilson urges the attackers to "hurry up" as her phone is about to run out of charge. At one stage an attempt was made to set fire to the remainder of the victim's hair with a cigarette lighter, while she is capable only of groaning and grunting.
She was also slapped about the face while lying on a settee.
Wilson's phone contained a number of so-called trophy photographs of her accomplices posing beside the shaved and insensible woman, the court heard.
Balmer denied involvement, but was convicted at trial of two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and a further common assault.
Dealing with his appeal, Lord Justice Coghlin said the video showed he had played a leading role in the attack.
But he confirmed that after "anxious consideration" the court had concluded his five-year sentence, half in prison and half on licence, was manifestly excessive.
Allowing Balmer's appeal, the court substituted the new four-year term.
Wilson had admitted two counts of aiding and abetting assault occasioning actual bodily harm and aiding and abetting common assault.
Lord Justice Coghlin, sitting with Mr Justice Weatherup and Mr Justice Treacy, said she had led a "purposeless and unstructured existence" fuelled by drink and drugs since leaving school.
He said added: "It is very difficult to understand how this appellant appears to have felt no compunction about encouraging others to subject a totally comatose and vulnerable fellow female to such sordid and degrading treatment.
"There seems to be little doubt but that the images recorded by this appellant upon her mobile phone were to be transmitted across social media, thereby reinforcing the degree of degradation and loss of self-esteem of the victim.
"The still photographs showing this appellant posing beside the shaved and insensible victim are particularly repellant."
However, the judges identified some prospect of personal and social rehabilitation based on Wilson's youth and guilty plea.
Allowing her appeal, the court imposed the new two-year sentence - half in custody and half on licence.