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Father of Chris Meli killer assaulted journalist outside court

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Gavin Smyth outside Lisburn Court 
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Gavin Smyth outside Lisburn Court Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Gavin Smyth outside Lisburn Court Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The father of a self-confessed killer has been ordered to do 90 hours community service for assaulting a journalist.

Gavin Smyth (42) was also told he must pay the journalist £200 compensation for the shocking attack.

Lisburn Magistrates Court heard on Thursday that Smyth, from Granville Place in Belfast, had been involved in an altercation with a journalist who was taking pictures outside court following a hearing involving his 22-year-old son Lee Smyth.

Last month at Belfast Crown Court, Lee Smyth was handed a nine-year sentence after he admitted to the manslaughter of Chris Meli, a 20-year-old father-of-one who was beaten by a crowd of up to 15 people in an area known as Doc’s Path in Twinbrook in December 2015.

Jailing Smyth, Mr Justice Colton said he had “no doubt” he had played a “leading role” in the attack on Mr Meli.

On Thursday, Gavin Smyth was sentenced for the November 9, 2018, attack outside Lisburn court having pleaded guilty to common assault last month.

His defence barrister told the court the journalist had been taking pictures of Smyth’s son and other defendants in the Christopher Meli case as they left the court.

He claimed the victim had “put the camera in the face” of the accused and that the mother of another defendant in the Meli case “slapped” the camera out of the victim’s hands.

She has since accepted a caution for attempted criminal damage. The defence barrister said the picture of exactly what happened next is “confusing” as there was “some ambiguity” as to who struck the journalist but he added that although Smyth accepted striking him it was “more of a push than a full blown punch”.

District Judge Rosemary Watters said she accepted the Meli case was an emotive one but said that did not justify Smyth’s actions.

She went on to say she regarded the incident as “serious” but also recognised the emotiveness of the case Mr Smyth’s son was involved in at the time.

Judge Watters revealed that Smyth was assessed as a low risk of reoffending and while he had a lengthy record for motoring offences, he had no previous for assault.

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