‘Xanax is a curse on this city’ warns local district judge

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

A man who admitted a ‘disgraceful and unprovoked attack’ on a disabled woman has been jailed for six months.

Twenty-two-years-old Andrew Coyle had taken a ‘cocktail of drugs’ including Xanax before he punched the woman to the face, kicked her to the head and stamped on her head during the assault.

The injured party sustained swelling to the back of her head and face and was in pain for a period of time as a result.

Jailing Coyle, District Judge Barney McElholm warned: “Anyone who takes Xanax and goes out and commits offences is going to be jailed. This drug is a curse on this city and other places. It is an ever increasing problem, particularly when it is consumed with alcohol.”

Coyle, whose address was given on court papers as Crawford Square, pleaded guilty to common assault and possessing Cannabis on April 21.

Derry Magistrate’s Court heard the woman, who is disabled and uses a walking aid, had been out with her partner and went to the defendant’s home in the early hours of the morning.

An argument developed between the woman and Coyle and as she got up to leave she was ‘suddenly attacked’ by the defendant.

Coyle punched the woman to the face and she fell to the ground, banging the back of her head off a tiled floor.

Coyle kicked the injured party to the head twice, kicked her to the back and stamped on her head. The woman’s partner then intervened and pulled Coyle off her.

She was taken to hospital by an ambulance a short time later and the defendant was arrested.

Following the arrest, police searched his home and found a small bag of Cannabis.

During police interview, the defendant admitted possession of the drugs, however, he said he could not remember the assault.

A defence barrister told the court it was an ‘unsavoury matter’ and the fact that his client was ‘stupefied’ through drink and drugs does not excuse his actions.

He said Coyle was ‘somewhat of a lost soul’ during his youth and turned to drink and drugs as a result.

The barrister added that Coyle has sought assistance to deal with his issues, including counselling to build better relationships with women.

Passing sentence, Judge McElholm said this was an ‘absolutely disgraceful and unprovoked assault’.

“There was no preamble to this at all that would even begin to explain it, he just started into this lady.”

He told Coyle he was ‘very lucky’ not to be facing more serious charges as he has a record for violence and drug offences.

The judge added that he had ‘no sympathy for people who take Xanax at all. It is well known what that drug does to people’.