Judge: ‘Lack of legislation’ to deal with strangulation

Bishop Street courthouse.
Bishop Street courthouse.

A judge has said that if the North took ‘domestic violence in general seriously, and strangulation in particular, we might have proper legislation here’.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as he jailed a man who strangled his partner and a police officer for eight months.

The maximum sentence for the offence Irvine Bruce Doherty was charged with is 12 months imprisonment.

Doherty, of Magowan Park, is charged with common assault, assaulting and resisting police on November 3, last year.

Derry Magistrate’s Court heard police were called to a domestic incident in the Northland Terrace area of the city.

The injured party was locked in an upstairs bathroom and was shouting for help.

Officers persuaded her to open the door and she reported that the defendant had grabbed her by the throat.

The court heard that 34-year-old Doherty pushed the woman to the ground, got on top of her and tried to strangle her.

When she attempted to scream he placed his thumb inside her mouth and punched her to the left side of her head.

The woman said the attack lasted around 15 minutes and she sustained bruising as a result.

Doherty was arrested and he became very aggressive, shouting in the officer’s face.

The officer tried to calm the defendant down, however Doherty grabbed him around the throat using both hands.

He was shouting at the police ‘not to touch him in his own home’ and attempted to grab the officer around the throat a second time.

Doherty backed off into the kitchen, but when further officers arrived he became aggressive again and was swinging his arms around and shouting.

The 34-year-old was restrained and he struggled and kicked out at the officers.

Following his arrest, Doherty claimed he was having breathing difficulties and was transferred to hospital.

Whilst there, the court heard, he told policethat he would ‘play the race card’.

Defence counsel Steven Mooney said his client’s life has been ‘beset with tragedy since he came here from Zimbabwe’.

He added that it is ten years since Doherty came to the attention of the court and is aware he has placed himself in a ‘precarious position’ with his behaviour.

Passing sentence, District Judge Barney McElholm said that if Doherty had committed these offences in America “he would be going to prison for a minimum of 15 years, and that means 15 years.”

He said the case once again highlights the ‘lack of proper legislation’ to deal with incidents of strangulation in the North.