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Man jailed after launching homophobic attack against woman outside Belfast bar

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Belfast Crown Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Belfast Crown Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Belfast Crown Court (Niall Carson/PA)

A 33-year old man who knocked a woman unconscious in a homophobic attack outside an east Belfast bar was sentenced for the hate crime on Tuesday.

Kristopher Gibson shouted 'what a right hook I've got' after punching the woman as she stood with her wife outside the Stoker's Halt last March.

Handing Gibson a 16-month sentence at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Patricia Smyth said the woman "was seriously assaulted for one reason and one reason only, and that was her sexuality."

"The law recognises the vulnerability of persons from the LGBT community and the importance of imposing sentences which deter others from committing such appalling offences, and the courts will protect victims from hate crime."

The father-of two, from Bloomfield Parade, was told he will serve eight months of his sentence in prison, followed by eight months on licence.

He was ordered to surrender himself to Laganside Courts on Thursday to be taken into custody.

As she sentenced Gibson, Judge Smyth noted the injuries the woman sustained may require cosmetic intervention, and said "there is no question that the emotional and psychological impact of this attack has been significant."

The violent incident occurred at around 1.20am on March 17 last year, as the woman stood with her wife and friends outside the bar.

Addressing Gibson, Judge Smyth said: "She became aware of a male, you, to her left who was 'mouthing' about 'gays'. You approached close to her and were very aggressive in your manner.

"You pushed your mobile phone into her face, she moved her hand across her face and moved back. She cannot remember anything else thereafter."

Judge Smyth revealed a witness at the scene said Gibson "became aggressive and made derogatory comments about homosexuals" when he heard that the two women were married, and that without warning he punched one of them and knocked her unconscious.

As a male friend when to her aid as she lay on the ground, Gibson then repeatedly pushed the man's back as he assisted the injured woman.

Gibson then shouted 'what a right hook I've got' before goading others at the scene. The injured woman's wife heard Gibson shout 'f***ing gays' and other homophobic slurs, and described him as angry, agitated and drunk. She took pictures of him on her phone which were later handed to police.

Judge Smyth said that when she regained consciousness, the injured woman was suffering from "agonising pain" to her face and head.

She was rushed to hospital where she was treated for a laceration to the back of her head, and soft tissue injuries to her left cheek.

Judge Smyth said that after reading reports, it was clear the injured woman still experiences tingling and numbness to her cheek which may require cosmetic intervention.

After fleeing the scene, Gibson was apprehended a short time later in the kitchen of a nearby house and struggled with officers as he was arrested.

He was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on the woman, assaulting the man who came to her aid, and assaulting police. He gave a 'no comment' response to police, and later denied attacking the woman - instead claiming he had been mistakenly identified.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey provided written submissions on behalf of his client, including a Probation Report which indicated Gibson had expressed shame as his actions and the words he used toward the women that evening.

Mr McConkey said that at the time, Gibson was drinking heavily and cannot remember the offending taking place - but has since expressed remorse and is "thoroughly ashamed of his behaviour."

The barrister urged Judge Smyth to consider Gibson's settled family life, his employment as a supervisor in a factory, a complete lack of relevant previous offending, and the fact he has now admitted all three offences.

Judge Smyth said she had taken into account these points, and noted Gibson told a Probation Officer he did not harbour any hostility to people in same-sex relationship.

However, she questioned the remorse Gibson expressed - given he maintained a "lying defence that this was a case of mistaken identity" - and told him that as part of his period of eight months on licence, "you engage in work to challenge your underlying attitudes to those of a different sexual orientation and to address your alcohol issues."

He was ordered to surrender himself at Laganside Courts at 10am on Thursday (27th), when he will be taken into custody to serve an eight-month prison sentence.

Belfast Telegraph