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Thugs beat my son so badly he had to quit work... but they avoided jail and he won't go out anymore

By Allan Preston

The mother of a man left with permanent injuries following an assault outside a bar has said she is disgusted his attackers avoided prison.

Neil Molloy is still terrified of returning to Newcastle, Co Down, nearly two years after being savagely beaten.

The 26-year-old was working as a dementia nurse in a home before the assault, which took place in the early hours of July 11, 2015, outside O'Hare's bar, which faces onto the seafront.

A 27-year-old female friend who was with him and who tried to stop the assault also suffered lacerations to her leg and bruised toes.

Four off-duty nurses who were attending a wedding at the time came to the stricken man's aid as he lay unconscious.

Mr Molloy woke up two days later in intensive care with no memory of the attack.

He required steel plates for his face, suffered permanent hearing loss in one ear, needed expensive dental work, was forced to give up the nursing job he had worked in for six years and was left with depression.

At Newtownards Crown Court last Friday, two men received suspended sentences for the brutal attack.

Patrick Haughian (30), from Ballagh Road in Newcastle, who works as a DJ, was convicted of causing actual bodily harm to Mr Molloy. He was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for three years. He was also ordered to pay compensation of £900 towards the victim's dental costs.

Clifford Parke (40), from Oldtown lane in Annalong, who runs a construction company, was convicted of common assault and actual bodily harm, with prison sentences of nine and four months suspended for three years.

Both previously denied causing grievous bodily harm before pleading guilty to lesser offences.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors, such as intent and excessive violence.

On the night of the assault Mr Molloy had been with his friend in O'Hare's. The court heard Haughian invited the pair to a party at Clarke's house, but became aggressive when they refused. Judge Sandra Crawford said a witness saw Haughian punch Mr Molloy to the ground outside the bar, hitting him two or three times in the face.

He also threw a bottle of wine, which smashed, its glass shards causing injuries to the woman's legs.

Mr Parke did not directly take part in the assault, but received an assault charge after stopping the woman helping Mr Molloy.

The victim's mother, Celine, said the suspended sentences had brought little comfort to the family.

"Neil was disappointed in the verdict, but the trial was tearing everyone down and at least it's done," she added.

"He's started going back to the gym, but at half four in the morning to try and build his confidence back up. He doesn't want to be there when it's busy.

"He doesn't really open up a lot. He won't go back to Newcastle. He has his apartment up for sale and he hasn't gone back near it.

"He's been staying with us. His dad and I go down the odd weekend just to check things.

"We're also left to continue to pay Neil's bills. It just doesn't seem fair."

Mrs Molloy said one of Haughian's barristers had told Judge Crawford the court case had put his client's life on hold and forced the postponement of his wedding.

"I thought, 'And what?' They've turned my son's life upside down literally," an angry Mrs Molloy said.

"When they left court I said, 'I hope you can sleep in your bed at night for the 22 months you've put us through as a family'."

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last year, Mr Molloy's parents spoke of the attack's devastating aftermath on their son.

Neil Molloy snr said that his son had been forced to leave behind his career as a dementia nurse.

"He can't go back to the nursing home," he explained. "He worked with patients with dementia, but if they were to lash out and hit him in the face, it could undo this operation with the metal plates. So he had to resign from his job, a job that he loved and had for six years."

Neil's mother agreed that the attack had changed her son. "Before the incident, he was a bubbly young lad and happy," she said But now everything's just changed. He won't even go out now and he's not eating. He's actually lost four stone in weight from when all this happened. It's just completely destroyed his life."

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