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Pair jailed for racist attack on man as he walked on towpath

By John Cassidy

Published 07/05/2016

Assault: Scott McKeown
Assault: Scott McKeown

Two men have been jailed for what a judge described as a "distasteful and reprehensible racist attack" on a defenceless man as he walked along the River Lagan towpath.

Thomas David Finn (22) from Linenhall Street in Armagh, was jailed for 14 months at Craigavon Crown Court as the judge described him as the "main instigator of the attack" almost two years ago.

Judge Patrick Lynch QC told Finn, who had previous convictions for assault, that he will spend a further 14 months on supervised licence following his release.

Co-accused Scott Cecil McKeown (20) of Young Street in Lisburn, Co Antrim, was jailed for nine months with a further 15 months on licence after he is freed.

Both men had pleaded guilty to charges of "behaviour intending or likely to stir up hatred", threats to kill their victim and assaulting him. Finn also admitted assaulting a police officer.

Joseph Murphy, prosecuting, told the court that the victim, Tonderai Msonza, was walking along the Lagan towpath around 3.30pm on Saturday, May 24, 2014, when he encountered three males.

Mr Msonza later told police that as Finn passed him he "struck him to the right side of the face with a closed fist" and sustained a total of three blows.

The court heard that Finn shouted at Mr Msonza: "N******, we are going to kill you."

Mr Murphy said the victim pulled a branch from a tree to defend himself before eventually "extricating himself from the situation".

Judge Lynch heard Mr Msonza then ran up the towpath to a bar in Bridge Street, Lisburn, only to be pursued by his attackers and was struck with a stick outside the premises.

Mr Msonza told police he heard his attackers shout: "N******, we are going to beat you up."

After making his way into the bar, he was pursued again and struck for a second time with the stick. He was later taken to hospital to be treated for a number of minor injuries.

Judge Lynch said: "These are serious matters, even if you take away the racist motive, but these offences cannot be dealt with in isolation.

"This was a distasteful and reprehensible attack on a defenceless man out for a walk on a Saturday afternoon on the Lagan towpath."

Jailing Finn for 14 months, Judge Lynch told him: "You are no stranger to violence or using violence. You were the main instigator of this serious incident."

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