A Co Tyrone man has narrowly avoided prison after he glassed a male to the neck while out celebrating Liverpool FC's Champions League final win two years ago.
Handing down a ten-month sentence suspended for three years at Dungannon Crown Court, Judge Brian Sherrard told Michael Stringer that his behaviour on the night was "poor'' but added that he was prepared to give him a second chance given his childcare and financial support to his partner.
"Over the course of the next three years, should you offend again and commit an indicatable offence, you can be confident that that period of ten months will have to be served,'' said Judge Sherrard.
"You do not belong in this court. It is not the place for you. I do not anticipate seeing you back here again
"But be reassured by this: I am likely to be sitting in this chair in Dungannon for another 20 years and if I do see you back in court, it is highly unlikely that you will not be given a second chance.''
Father-of-one Stringer (28), of Springdale Estate, Dungannon, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of wounding his victim on June 2, 2019.
He had been out celebrating in Hagan’s Bar, Dungannon on Saturday, June 1, 2019 after Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the final of the Champions League in Madrid.
Prosecution barrister Simon Reid said that shortly after midnight, the victim encountered the defendant and they talked together but did not believe the conversation was heated.
The victim reported a short time later that Stringer struck him to his neck and left ear area.
He then noticed blood coming from himself and was attended to by other people and the men parted. Although he knew Stringer, the victim said he was unaware why the defendant would have wanted to assault him.
Later that day, said Mr Reid, Stringer sent the victim a Facebook message saying sorry and that he was disgusted and ashamed of himself and that he did not know how to explain how it had got so out of hand.
He said it was a "moment of madness'' and he regretted it straight away and that he hoped the victim was "ok''.
CCTV footage from the bar showed the two men approach each other and appear to engage in conversation and were close to each other.
Said Mr Reid: "It is not possible from this to determine the nature of the conversation. Stringer then for no apparent reason strikes Sheridan to the head area whilst holding a glass.''
The victim was examined by a doctor, who noted he had a horizontal 4-5 cm wound on the left side of the neck and a similar puncture wound just below that and superficial scratches to the left ear.
In a statement, the victim reported that he still felt pain to his neck, that there was significant scar tissue there and his sleep had been affected.
Mr Reid told the court that he has spoken to the victim and the "scarring is still there and it is permanent''.
Following his arrest, Stringer told police that he was in the bar and earlier in the evening the victim tried to start a fight and two of his friends prevented the fight taking place, not once but twice.
"On the third occasion they met, the victim had come close to him, describing this as 'in his face'. He thought he was going to strike him. He was frightened and lashed out. He hit him with a glass. He did not aim for the throat or inflict that type of injury.
"He says he was defending himself and regrets it.
“He became upset at this stage. He said he realised he had the glass after the strike.
“He told police that during the course of the evening he had drank seven to eight pints of beer along with a number of shots of spirits.”
However, the prosecutor said that the victim does not recall the earlier interactions put forward by Stringer or that he was hostile in manner in the final interaction, which CCTV footage could also not resolve.
Stringer, who is the father of a one-year-old son, has a previous conviction in 2010 for a public order offence.
In mitigation, defence barrister Patrick Taggart said there was no question of Stringer "minimising'' his actions and to his credit took to social media the next day and "apologised for his actions''. He added that he was also remorseful for what he had done.
Stringer's partner of eight years and the mother of his young son gave evidence in court today .
The witness, who became tearful at times, told the court that Stringer helped her start up her business and gave her all of his Credit Union savings.
"I started off on my own with one table and chair and I now have three full-time employees. I have expanded recently to a bigger two-storey premises.
"I rely on him to collect our son from childcare, so I can stay on and put in extra hours in the business. Michael puts our child to bed every evening. Since Covid, our son has spent a lot of time with his father, he's a daddy's boy and he calls for him first thing in the morning and not mummy.''
Asked if her partner wasn't there for financial and caring support, she replied: "I would be in debt, all alone and would probably have to close my business.'' She confirmed it would also result in the loss of three full-time employees.
Judge Sherrard said the attack took place in a public bar in a social setting and "this court has grave concerns about people being able to be out peaceably and enjoy an evening without either being threatened, or assaulted or witnesses to an assault''.
The injury was caused by a single blow, he added, it was an isolated and shortlived incident, it was an action which arose "spontaneously'' and had arisen as a result of a "perceived threat'' to a situation the defendant had found himself in.
In determining his ten-month suspended sentence, the judge noted how Stringer's partner and son would cope if he was jailed and the knock-on effects to her business and the potential job losses.
Judge Sherrard ordered Stringer to pay his victim £1,500 in compensation, giving him 26 weeks to pay.