Jailed for ‘tragic’ one punch attack

Court
Court

A 34-year-old who left a man with a brain injury after a one-punch attack has been sentenced to 16 months.

Andrew McLaughlin will serve half his sentence in custody and half on licence.

McLaughlin, of Shanreagh Park, pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm in the early hours of January 10.

Derry Crown Court heard the assault took place during a birthday party at Pitcher’s Wine Bar.

The injured party was going into the function room when he was tapped on the shoulder.

He turned around and McLaughlin punched him on the right side of the face.

The 34-year-old went outside and was followed by one of the injured party’s friends.

He was gesturing and shouting ‘come on’ but the friend was prevented from going any further by door staff.

The injured party was unconscious and there was a trickle of blood coming from his nose and his ear.

Paramedics noticed a table beside where the injured party was lying and that there was blood on the edge of. This indicated that he had hit his head off the table as he fell.

The injured party was initially taken to Altnagelvin Hospital and was then transferred to the ICU of the Royal Victoria Hospital.

He sustained two haematoma’s and a fracture of the skull.

The man was kept in ICU for ten days and was transferred back to Altnagelvin on January 28.

He was discharged two days later but continues to be treated as an outpatient and by the community brain injury team.

The court heard he continues to suffer from tinnitus, light heads, decreased concentration and increased irritability.

McLaughlin went to the police station and admitted hitting the injured party.

He said he had met the man in the smoking area, where he had made comments about McLaughlin taking steroids.

The 34-year-old said he approached the injured party 20 minutes later, tapped him on the shoulder and punched him once.

He told the police he trained regularly, had been a kick boxer and was annoyed about the comment made by the injured party.

Defence counsel Ivor McAteer told the court ‘this is a tragedy, a one punch case’ which has had ‘terrible consequences’ for the injured party.

He said McLaughlin is ‘not a man prone to violence’ and the charge is ‘not reflective of the man in the dock’.

Mr McAteer told the court his client ‘can’t explain how sorry’ he is for his behaviour on this night.

He added that the father of two knows only too well what a brain injury means, as his mother had a stroke many years ago and has been left severely disabled as a result.

The barrister also revealed McLaughlin suffered a serious ‘mistaken identity’ assault as a teenager in which he sustained fractured legs, feet, an ankle and a hand.

He said the 34-year-old was left in a wheelchair for a number of months and had to use crutches for over three years.

Jailing McLaughlin, Judge Gemma Loughran said ‘this is a tragic case the main victim of the tragedy is of course the injured party. You didn’t set out to cause harm to anyone but that is the nature of the one punch attack’.

She said the court must ‘mark society’s abhorrence and rejection of this phenomenon and deter others from engaging’ in similar behaviour.