Belfast Telegraph

Man jailed for involvement in assault which left victim with 'life-changing' injuries

The man was handed a four and a half year sentence after he admitted offences arising from an incident in east Belfast last summer.
The man was handed a four and a half year sentence after he admitted offences arising from an incident in east Belfast last summer.

By Ashleigh McDonald

A father of two was jailed on Monday 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 admitted offences arising from an incident in east Belfast last summer.

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 an American university.

He was attacked in the bedroom of a house in McArthur Court on the evening of 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 struck and knocked unconscious.

Around four hours before the incident, Bell's younger brother was attacked, and this prompted Bell to seek a fist fight with the man he held responsible for assaulting his brother.

With the intention of having a fight with this man, 24-year old Bell and three others - who had all been drinking - went to McArthur Court.

The Crown accept 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 then forcing a bedroom door, Bell and his associates entered the bedroom and Bell assaulted the man he thought 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" and had not been involved in the previous attack on his brother.

As a result of the baseball bat attack, the injured party suffered serious injuries which required surgery. The injuries included a fractured skull, 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. He can no longer drive, lost the chance to attend a football scholarship and is on daily medication to stop any further seizures.

Bell boasted about the incident on Facebook, but was unaware at that stage just how serious the injuries to the other man were.

When he was arrested, Bell gave a 'no comment' response to police, but later pleaded guilty to three charges.

Bell admitted aggravated burglary with the intention of committing grievous bodily on the grounds of joint enterprise, assaulting the man he thought had attacked his brother, and also causing criminal damage to the house he and his associated targeted.

Defence barrister Stephen Toal said the incident was "not straightforward", and pointed out the lesser role played by his client.

Saying Bell has displayed remorse and had accepted the injured man was completely innocent, Mr Toal said his client didn't have a weapon and "did not assault the victim."

Telling Bell his plea spared the injured party the "ordeal of giving evidence", Judge Patricia Smyth said: ""While you are responsible for the injuries to the injured party by law, you did not hurt him at all, nor were you in possession of any weapon."

Regarding the injured man, the Judge branded his injuries as "life-changing", adding: "It is clear that he has had long term consequences as a result of this attack. He now has cognitive difficulties and is unable to pursue his future plans."

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.

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