Coalisland man who punched primary school principal in chest has sentence deferred
A Co Tyrone man who stormed through a primary school and punched the principal has had his sentencing deferred.
Paddy Ward's attack occurred a day before he was due to be sentenced for a separate outburst in court.
The incident at Primate Dixon Primary School, in which the victim was struck on the area of a heart surgery wound, was so serious that the school conducted a review of its security procedures.
Ward (31), from Torrent Valley, Coalisland, admitted attacking the principal as well as using disorderly behaviour and damaging a door at Primate Dixon Primary on September 24.
However, a different version of events was disclosed during a sentencing hearing at Dungannon Magistrates Court yesterday.
A defence lawyer contended that Ward has suffered greatly by the manner in which the initial incident was reported and later having his address published, involving abuse being shouted by members of the public.
When the matter first came to court it was claimed the incident occurred after Ward was challenged for driving his car right up to the doors to leave his children off. An argument followed and the principal was assaulted when he attempted to intervene.
But yesterday it emerged that Ward arrived at the school around 9am looking for his children, intending to take them out of class. He was irate and his conduct was witnessed by other students.
He "forcefully" pushed open a door, causing glass to smash.
When the principal tried to intervene, Ward punched him in the chest.
He was arrested and accepted smashing the door but had denied any assault.
When shown CCTV, he replied: "Fair enough. I didn't punch him. I pushed him out of my way."
Defence counsel described the case as "complex" and referred to the presence of two people in the public gallery, whom he claimed where the cause of Ward's explosive behaviour in the courtroom incident.
He said: "They are present in court. I don't know if they are here for any other reason."
At this point, District Judge Michael Ranaghan ordered the court to be cleared of all persons not associated with the case.
When the couple said they were "partly connected" the judge ordered them to leave or he would hold them in contempt.
The defence said: "It is accepted my client was in a highly emotional state but there is context to this."
It was contended in the wake of the Press report, Ward went through a "very disturbing time."
His children have since transferred to another school.
Judge Ranaghan told Ward: "It is clear the impact your disgraceful behaviour had on the principal and the wider school community. This was beyond reprehensible.
"The principal was assaulted and frightened he would be assaulted again. This deserves custody.
"But you pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, it is clear you suffered somewhat as a result of the newspaper report."
He decided to defer sentencing for six months and imposed a restraining order banning Ward from entering the school premises.