A 24-year old man who bit off then swallowed a chunk of his friend's ear during a drunken street fight was handed a 20-month sentence on Friday.
Thomas McCoubrey later confessed to being under the influence of "a whole raft of stuff" during the incident, which occurred at Waring Street in the centre of Belfast on the evening of September 13 last year.
McCoubrey - who at the time was homeless and who has been on remand since last September - was told by Judge Patricia Smyth that he will spend ten months in prison, followed by ten months on licence when he is released from jail.
The Judge directed that as part of his licence conditions, McCoubrey should attend trauma counselling to deal with a childhood that Belfast Crown Court heard was "traumatic and neglectful."
Prosecuting barrister Kate McKay said that police CCTV operators were alerted to a fight between two males, and when officers arrived at the scene, they had to split up two men who were "tangled together on the ground."
Police noticed one of the men had a large chunk missing from the top of his right ear, who told officers McCoubrey bit him. An ambulance was called, and he was given medical attention, but he was intoxicated and said he was not prepared to make a statement. He did, however, say the man who bit his ear was a friend, and he was later treated for his injury at the Mater Hospital.
When he was arrested McCoubrey initially made the claim he was acting in self-defence, but when police viewed the CCTV footage again, it showed McCoubrey acted as the aggressor and throwing punches. It also showed both men falling to the ground.
Branding the incident as both "unprovoked" and a "drunken episode", Ms McKay said that since the incident the injured man "simply cannot be traced" as he has alcohol issues and lives a transient lifestyle.
The prosecutor revealed he had not co-operated with police, and when questioned about the ear injury, Ms McKay told the court it was understood "a piece of the ear was swallowed. It was not found at the scene. It was possible it could have been re-attached, but that was not the case."
When McCoubrey was arrested the following day, he refused to answer police questions - but later admitted causing the injury to his friend.
Joel Lindsay, the barrister representing McCoubrey, said that despite the injury, the two men "are friends and remain friends."
Mr Lindsay said a psychiatric report compiled on his client whilst on remand indicated McCoubrey was under the influence of a "whole raft of stuff" on the evening in question, adding that at the time his client was homeless, suffering from anxiety and depression and abusing both drink and drugs.
Revealing that McCoubrey has since expressed remorse and a desire to turn his life around, Mr Lindsay said it was his client's case that during the fight his friend grabbed him around the throat, which caused him to panic and bite his ear.