Belfast Telegraph

Addict who beat up 'wrong man' Belfast hostel jailed for two years

By Michael Donnelly

An addict with 20 previous convictions who beat up the wrong man in a Belfast hostel in the mistaken belief he was his attacker, has been sentenced to two years.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC, told 32-year-old Sean Kevin Gerard McKearney if it wasn't for his previous convictions he may not have been jailed for the attack, which he described as "vicious and sustained".

McKearney, who will serve 12 months custody, followed by 12 months on supervised license, pleaded guilty to causing his victim grievous bodily harm on May 25 last year.

Prosecution barrister Kate McKay told the city's Crown Court that McKearney approached a fellow resident in Centenary House, a Salvation Army hostel and while pointing to a number of injuries he had, asked the man if he had caused them.

Ms McKay said McKearney then launched an unprovoked attack on the man with 'fists and feet'.  As the man tried to protect himself by rolling into a fetal position, McKearney also used a small metal bin to beat him about the head.  The man later needed 14 staples to treat two scalp wounds.

Defence barrister Martin Morgan said the attack was carried out because of a misconception on McKearney's part that the man was responsible for an attack on him the night before which left him with a fractured jaw among other injuries.

The defence lawyer added later that his client was "extremely annoyed and upset" for the mistake.  However, when police arrived at the hostel he identified himself as the attacker, and later handed over his clothing and shoes which had some of the man's blood on them.

Mr Morgan said that McKearney had been "abusing medicated drugs he was buying on the street by the handful".  He said that his client, despite mental health difficulties had shown a recent natural propensity for languages, speaking Polish fluently and was studying four others, including Russian.

In conclusion the lawyer argued that given the manner in which McKearney had dealt with the case, it might allow the court to "take a chance with him".

However, Judge Miller said while he may have been "persuaded by the eloquence" of the defence plea, given his record and the fact he was already on probation and serving a suspended sentence, "there can be no doubt the custody threshold has been past". 

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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