Thugs avoid jail over vicious attack that left fireman with fractured leg
Two men who assaulted a fireman outside a Tesco Metro store in Belfast have avoided prison.
Ryan Clarke and Conor Patrick Martin Duffy, both 22, admitted assault and actual bodily harm over the attack, in which the victim fractured a leg.
Belfast Crown Court heard that while Duffy attacked the man first on September 3, 2014, Clarke joined in after the victim fell to the ground and fractured his leg.
Both were handed suspended sentences by Judge Geoffrey Millar, who warned them they would be jailed if they reoffended in next two years.
Duffy, who is originally from Northern Ireland but who now lives in Essex, was given a two-year jail sentence, suspended for two years. Clarke, from Sliabh Dubh Walk, Ballymurphy, was given an 18-month term, also suspended for two years.
Prior to sentencing, Crown prosecutor Philip Henry said that on the night of the attack on the Dublin Road in Belfast, the fireman was approaching the shop as security workers were removing the defendants from the premises.
As staff members tried to escort the pair out, "words were exchanged" between them and the victim, during which Duffy was said to have "goaded" the fireman. As the incident spilled out onto the footpath, Duffy assaulted the injured party, causing both to fall to the ground.
While on the ground, the fireman was subjected to a "number of blows".
Police later tracked Duffy down. When he was interviewed, he initially gave no comment, then admitted he had been in a "scuffle" but claimed he intended to hurt no one.
Clarke, who fled from police, was arrested six months later. He denied involvement before later admitting his guilt.
Defence barrister Joel Linsday, representing Clarke, accepted the incident was "nasty" and something his client should not have got involved in.
He also pointed out that the defendant has mental health issues and had spent time on remand for the crime.
Solicitor Brendan Blaney, for Duffy, said his client had given up alcohol, was living and working with relatives in Essex and had "made a conscious decision to turn his life around".
Passing sentence, Judge Millar accepted the attack on "a man who was going about his business" was serious.
He added he hoped the injured party had made a full recovery from his leg injury and was able to return to his "important work in the community as a fire officer."