Man caged over Belfast baseball bat assault that left young footballer badly injured
A father-of-two has been jailed for his involvement in a violent incident that left a promising young footballer with life-changing injuries.
Aaron William Joseph Bell was handed a four-and-a-half year sentence after he confessed to an aggravated burglary in east Belfast last summer with the intention of committing grievous bodily on the grounds of joint enterprise.
He also admitted assaulting a man he thought attacked his brother, and causing criminal damage to the house he and associates targeted.
Belfast Crown Court heard that as a result of being hit over the head with a baseball bat, the injured party sustained serious injuries and is now unable to pursue a football scholarship at a US university.
He was attacked in a house in McArthur Court on July 31 last year by an associate of Bell's.
A witness later described seeing the injured party "sliding down" a wall after he was knocked unconscious.
Around four hours beforehand, Bell's younger brother had been attacked, and Bell wanted to fight the man he held responsible.
Bell (24) and three others, who had all been drinking, went to McArthur Court.
The Crown accepts that while some in Bell's group armed themselves with a cricket bat and a baseball bat "to ensure that nobody interfered with the fight", Bell himself did not have a weapon.
After breaking into the house, Bell and his associates forced a bedroom door and Bell assaulted the man he believed had attacked his brother.
At this point the injured party saw his friend being punched in the face by Bell and went to his friend's aid.
He was then struck on the head and arm by a baseball bat wielded by an associate of Bell's.
The court heard that Bell later accepted the young man struck was a "completely innocent person" who had not been involved in the attack on his brother.
As a result of the baseball bat attack, the injured party suffered a fractured skull and blood clots, and he also experienced seizures.
He has been left with cognitive deficiencies, has problems with memory and co-ordination, and had been diagnosed with a stress-related disorder.
The victim can no longer drive, lost the chance to attend a football scholarship and is on daily medication to stop further seizures.
Judge Patricia Smyth described the victim's injuries as "life-changing".
She told Bell that he will serve half his sentence in prison, followed by a period of two years and three months on licence upon his release.