Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone skull fracture man avoids prison

By John Cassidy

A man has been given a suspended prison sentence over an assault outside a public bar which left his victim with a fractured skull.

Damien McCallan (35), of Drumnakilly Road, Carrickmore, Co Tyrone, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to John McCullagh last year.

Judge Stephen Fowler QC told Omagh Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, that the pair were in The Old Charm Bar in Carrickmore's Main Street on October 14, 2013.

"It appears they had been drinking and when they left the premises there appears to have been some sort of altercation between the two of them outside,' the judge told the court.

"This was captured on CCTV footage. It was somewhat grainy, however what can be seen from the footage is that during the altercation it appears that the complainant approached the defendant. They faced each other and there was some pushing.''

During the incident, McCallan pushed father-of-one Mr McCullagh (25), of Loughmacrory, Co Tyrone, and he "fell backwards and it appears he struck his head on the footpath''.

As a result, said Judge Fowler QC, Mr McCullagh sustained a "significant head injury'' by "striking his head forcefully'' on the ground. The victim was transferred from Craigavon Area Hospital to the intensive care unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment to a fracture to the left side of his skull and also bleeding on the brain.

The court heard that as a result of the fall, he has now lost his sense of smell, has little sensation in his left arm and walks with a limp.

A report by his doctor said Mr McCullagh also suffers from "irritability, agitation, restlessness and shouts out in his sleep''.

The judge said that having viewed the CCTV footage he was satisfied there was "no follow-up attack'' by McCallan on the victim as he lay on the ground. "It was quite the reverse. The defendant attempted to lift the complainant after he fell on the footpath.''

Judge Fowler said he was treating the case as one of "low culpability but greater harm'', given that Mr McCullagh appeared to have initiated the pushing outside the bar.

He told the court that the aggravating factor in the case was the "significant injury'' sustained by Mr McCullagh. The judge said that mitigating in McCallan's favour was that he had "shown considerable remorse and empathy to his victim, there was no element of premeditation and there was some element of provocation which resulted in this pushing''.

He accepted a pre-sentence report which assessed McCallan as not posing a significant risk to the public and was regarded as a low risk of reoffending.

"The court considers all assaults and acts of violence as serious and in particular when significant harm is caused as a result. The court takes a serious view of this''. The judge said he was satisfied that the custody threshold had been reached and said the appropriate sentence was one of 14 months in custody.

"I have taken into account the injuries sustained by the complainant. I have also taken into account the nature of the assault, that is to say a push. The defendant himself had been pushed by the complainant," he said.

"It is unfortunate and tragic that this pushing resulting in the complainant sustaining a significant injury.

"However, in the unusual, if not highly exceptional circumstances of this particular case, I am persuaded that the correct course is to suspend the sentence I have imposed."

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