Man jailed for nine years over his role in planned assault
A gunman who smashed his way into a couple's home with the intention of assaulting their son with a sledgehammer has been jailed for nine years.
William Hunter (26), from Carrowreagh Road in Garvagh, was one of three men wearing boiler suits and balaclavas, who forced their way into the house at Macknagh Road in Upperlands at 11pm on August 9, 2015.
Hunter admitted possessing the sledgehammer with intent to assault the intended victim. He also admitted criminally damaging the couple's home and assaulting their son's girlfriend.
He had denied possessing a firearm or imitation firearm on the night but last year a jury found him guilty of that offence.
Hunter was arrested after he cut his hand while forcing his way into the house. When he pushed the girlfriend of his intended victim his blood was transferred to her dressing gown. The blood was analysed and found to match Hunter's DNA.
Judge Philip Babington said it was clear that all three men were looking for the couple's son but couldn't find him. They then fled from the house after causing damaging to the property.
"As far as the incident in question is concerned, the defendant says that two persons asked him to take part in finding and assaulting the man, as he had allegedly been involved in punishment-type attacks against others related to these people over a period of years," he said.
"As matters progressed the defendant said it was not possible to back out. He said that his role was to keep watch over the man's parents. It is quite clear that he did not do this, as he, on his own admission in court, was in the bedroom and pushed the man's girlfriend back onto the bed.
Judge Babington described it as "extremely serious offending".
"The defendant admitted, prior to his trial, that he broke into this house quite unlawfully with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm to someone he said was a friend," he said. "It is particularly concerning that he was one of the three men, all of whom appear to have been dressed in dark clothing and two, at least, appeared to be wearing new dark boiler suits and all had full face balaclavas. It is abundantly clear that the intended victim had a very lucky escape on this night and that the defendant and his two companions were intent on causing really serious injury to him," the judge added.
"It is crystal clear that the intended victim was going to be badly injured by the defendant and his companions. This is a case in which the defendant was involved in, together with the other two, of intending to seriously injure another person for some reason or other," he said.
At the Crown Court in Derry, Hunter was jailed for nine years for aggravated burglary, six for possessing a firearm or imitation firearm, one for causing criminal damage and one for assaulting the girlfriend of his intended victim. All sentences will run concurrently.