Seven years for doorman machete attack
A Co Antrim father-of-one convicted by a jury of attacking a bouncer with a machete in Ballyclare has been handed a seven-year sentence.
Judge Patricia Smyth told 27-year-old Simon Esler he carried out an "unprovoked attack" on a defenceless man, and would spend half his sentence in prison, with the remainder spent on licence.
Esler, from Waterfall Road, Carnlough, attacked the doorman with a machete outside Ballyclare Football Club, situated on The Square in the town, on June 20, 2015.
Despite initially denying involvement, Esler later claimed he carried out the attack as he believed the doorman was involved in a previous incident at his house during which his pregnant partner had a gun held to her stomach.
Judge Smyth told the court the attack had an impact both physically and mentally on the victim, who had "suffered a great deal" after being repeatedly slashed with the weapon.
During yesterday's sentencing the judge said she accepted that Esler's remorse and regret was genuine. Addressing him, she spoke of the impact his jail term will have on his partner and young child.
Judge Smyth said: "On one hand this was a very serious attack with a very serious weapon. On the other hand, you have no history of serious violence or threatening serious violence, you have a good employment history and a stable family life."
During a five-day trial last December Esler denied he was the attacker. However, the jury of seven women and five men unanimously find him guilty of wounding the doorman with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm, and of possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.
The injured man was slashed up to four times and sustained wounds to his arm, abdomen and thigh, as well as a fractured forearm.
The jury heard he was attacked by Esler, who got out of his car shouting "you were in my house and you pointed a gun at my pregnant wife" before lashing out with the machete.
The jury also heard that an entertainer who had been performing in the football club that night, and who was outside having a smoke, saw the incident and noted the Volkswagen Passat's registration, though later conceded he may have got some of the digits mixed up, and police found it was not registered to any vehicle.
However, when police switched two of the numbers around, they discovered the plate was registered to a blue Passat belonging to the accused.
Throughout his trial Esler - who came before the court with 10 previous convictions - consistently denied attacking the doorman.
His denials were rejected by the jury.
During the case the jury heard that eight months before the machete attack Esler went to the PSNI to report a home invasion. In a statement made to police, Esler and his pregnant partner said masked men had forced their way into their home and that a gun was pointed at her.
Prior to sentencing Esler, Judge Smyth was informed that, despite his denials both to police during interview and throughout the trial, the accused now accepted full responsibility for what he did in June 2015, and had shown victim empathy and remorse.
Esler told a probation officer the incident was not pre-meditated, that he had the machete in the back of his car to cut briars and that he "just happened" to see the doorman that evening.
Defence barrister Richard McConkey said his client had accepted responsibility and was ashamed of what he did.