Man jailed for 'cowardly' attack on disabled partner of his ex-wife
A judge has described an assault on a profoundly disabled man as he lay helpless in bed unable to defend himself as "premeditated and cowardly" as he jailed the guilty party.
Police body camera footage played at Dungannon Magistrates Court showed the distressed victim bleeding from a facial cut while his partner had an injury to her forehead.
Kevin Michael Gerard McKernan (39) of Lisnahull Gardens in the town had denied assaulting the victim and stealing his mobile phone during a vicious house attack in the early hours of December 29, but was convicted after a contest.
The victim is the partner of McKernan's ex-wife.
She was also assaulted, sustaining an injury after attempting to shield her partner by lying over him.
They were woken by rapping at the door around 2am with McKernan - who works as a chef in a care facility - asking to use the bathroom.
She let him in but he proceeded to hurl sectarian abuse at her new partner, calling him a "black loyalist b******", who ruined his marriage, then launched a physical attack.
The victim lay helpless in bed, unable to defend himself.
The female manoeuvred herself between attacker and victim, trying to block further blows.
The male victim recalled McKernan "bursting in, roaring and shouting: 'You black b****** ... I'll kill you'.
"My partner leaned over me, shielding me. She did her best to protect me," he said.
"She was hit in the process… I was hit in the face and ribs."
McKernan left and police were called.
The male victim's phone was noted to be missing, but less than two hours after the attack the woman received a call from McKernan.
He read a text from a contact saved in the male victim's phone.
McKernan, however, was adamant he neither spoke to nor attacked the man.
He accepted being at the house claiming this was at his ex-wife's invitation, but there was no physical contact with her, and he never went near the man.
He contended: "They are trying to get me jailed and lose my job."
McKernan accepted during police interview he gave "no comment" replies to all questions, but denied this was to allow him time to concoct a story.
He said: "I couldn't get me head around all their lies.
"This is my livelihood at stake."
It was then put to McKernan by the prosecution that "you flew off the handle and attacked a wheelchair-bound man as he lay in bed, not able to defend himself".
"Your ex-partner tried to protect him while you tried to get at him."
This was denied.
With evidence complete, District Judge John Meehan ruled: "This was a childish, immature defence.
"I am satisfied of the defendant's guilt on all counts.
"There is a tempestuous, bitter and at times vindictive conduct displayed.
"It is simply ludicrous to suggest he was invited for an arranged meeting.
"Both victims were asleep in bed before this violent altercation occurred."
Referring to the police interview, Judge Meehan held: "He had nothing to say as, of course, there was nothing to be said."
Sentencing McKernan to four months in jail, the judge said: "You have shown no remorse in your self-righteous account.
"You set out to blacken your former wife.
"This was a premedicated, cowardly assault on a disabled man in his bed who had no capacity to defend himself."
While the attack did not occur in McKernan's workplace, health watchdog the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority said it had been "appropriately notified" by the care facility where McKernan works about the issue.
The organisation added that the matter had been "dealt with in line with adult safe-guarding procedures".