Belfast Telegraph

'Kill the taig' thugs escape jail terms after Belfast assault

Pair get suspended sentence for assault on man who asked them for a cigarette

By Christopher Woodhouse

These are the thugs who shouted “kill the taig” as they attacked a man who asked for a cigarette after a night out.

Thomas Matthews and Nathan McConnell were said to have “rained blows” on the victim during the incident in Belfast city centre.

On social media Matthews describes himself as secretary of junior football club, East Belfast.

The pair were handed suspended jail terms last week after they pleaded guilty to what the judge described as an “outrageous assault”.

A prosecution lawyer told Belfast Magistrates’ Court that at around 3am the victim was walking home along Chichester Street after a night out in December 2014.

He stopped and asked the pair for a cigarette but suddenly felt blows “raining down” on him and the pair shouting “kill the taig” repeatedly.

The prosecution lawyer explained that the victim ran away until he felt safe and called an ambulance.

He sustained bruising all over his body as well as grazes to his head and elbows.

He also discovered that one of the pair, later identified as McConnell, had stolen his mobile phone.

Both McConnell, 24, and Matthews, 28, gave no comment interviews when questioned by police.

Matthews, of Connswater Grove in east Belfast, was charged with one count of assault occassioning actual bodily harm.

McConnell, of Inverary Avenue, also in the east of the city, faced one charge of assault occassioning actual bodily harm and theft of the victim’s mobile phone.

A solicitor for McConnell said that he and Matthews had been drinking since 5pm that day in celebration of McConnell’s birthday.

He said McConnell was extremely apologetic but explained his client had no real memory of what took place.

The solicitor added that McConnell had been active in cross-community projects in the past.

Matthews’ solicitor said the assault was not motivated by sectarianism and his client was “embarrassed and disgusted” by his behaviour, which he acknowledged was “scary and traumatic” for the victim.

He explained that the victim did ask him for a smoke, he told him that he didn’t smoke but accepted that he had acted aggressively and that comments were made.

The solicitor referred to a probation report that said Matthews, who is employed as a general labourer, did not have ingrained sectarian attitudes.

District Judge White described the incident as an “outrageous assault” on somebody who was walking home, aggravated by sectarian remarks.

Judge White added that the victim may have sustained much more serious injuries had a bystander not intervened.

He said the case clearly crossed the custody threshold and that it might take years for somebody to feel comfortable going outside again following an attack of this nature.

However, due to their early guilty plea, low risk of reoffending and clear records he sentenced the pair to six months each, suspended for two years.

He also ordered them to pay £300 compensation to the victim.

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