Belfast Telegraph

Woman who stabbed partner avoids jail as judge warns 'there'll be no second chance'

Knife attack: Antoinette Blair at an earlier court appearance in Antrim
Knife attack: Antoinette Blair at an earlier court appearance in Antrim

By Paul Higgins

A Ballymena woman who stabbed her boyfriend in the arm and leg narrowly escaped going to prison yesterday.

Imposing a two-year jail sentence but suspending its operation for three years at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Kevin Finnegan QC told 51-year-old Antoinette Blair that "any use of a knife, whatever the circumstances, in this day and age leads to jail".

He added, however, that having heard how she still has flashbacks over the two weeks she spent in custody on remand and "having dealt with Crown Court cases and accused for far too many years, I'm aware that the first period of incarceration is the one that strikes offenders young and not so young, the most".

"Fortunately for you, that swings this case just on the right side of it," he told Blair, warning her: "I don't think you will be getting a second chance so take your chance".

At an earlier hearing Blair, from Queen Street in the Co Antrim town, admitted wounding John Walker on April 20 last year.

Prosecuting counsel Tessa Kitson told the court the former couple had been in a "tempestuous relationship" for several months when the incident occurred in the early hours.

An ambulance crew tending to the man called the police after they found him in the living room where "there was quite a lot of blood on the floor".

Blair claimed that her then-boyfriend "had fallen on broken glass", but Mr Walker told police officers that she had gone to the kitchen "and had returned with a knife" which she then used to stab him.

The ex-boyfriend had sustained three wounds to his arms and legs, wounds which required three stitches each and Ms Kitson said, while "fortunately the wounds were not as serious as originally thought", the victim had "suffered from emotional or psychological sequela".

By pleading guilty, added the lawyer, Blair has abandoned her initial claims and "accepted that she was responsible for stabbing the injured party", adding that "the nature of the wounds were poking rather than stabbing".

Defence counsel Sean Doherty said the wounds would not have needed "significant force" and had arisen from a "heated argument between the two".

Revealing that Blair had been subjected to domestic abuse in a previous relationship, the lawyer conceded "that doesn't excuse the actions of the defendant in anyway", however did perhaps "contextualise" what happened which was "out of character" for Blair.

He added that at the time, Blair had been under considerable strain having been ordered to move out of her flat the day after the incident but that she had shown "considerable remorse" for the stabbing.

Mr Doherty told the judge that the two weeks she spent in custody until she was freed on bail "has had a profound impact" on Blair, who "still wakes up in the morning hearing the cell keys jangling".

Accepting the offence "clearly crossed the custody threshold", the defence counsel pleaded with the judge "to deal with her in such a way that doesn't imperil her liberty".

Imposing the suspended sentence on Blair, who came to court with bags packed in preparation for a jail sentence, Judge Finnegan said it was clear "that you still have bad memories of the period of liberty deprivation".

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