An Armagh man who assaulted his neighbour before threatening to burn her out of her home while holding a petrol canister has been sentenced to nine months in prison.
Brian Nugent, of no fixed abode, appeared at Armagh Magistrates’ Court, sitting in Newry, via videolink from Maghaberry Prison for sentencing on Tuesday.
The 72-year-old was handed five months in custody for threats to damage property and endanger life and nine months for common assault.
The court heard that on Friday, May 13, shortly after 8.15pm, police received a report from a woman stating she had been assaulted by Nugent who then threatened to burn her house down.
When police arrived on the scene the defendant was standing outside the injured party’s property with a petrol canister in his hand – which was open.
He told police: “Yes I’ve got a petrol can here. I’m going to burn the whole f***ing place.”
The injured party explained to police that she was driving out of her street when she was waved down by Nugent who was asking for a lift, which she refused.
The defendant became angry, grabbed her by the wrist and clenched his fist in her face. As she returned home to contact police he followed and continued to threaten her, and to burn her out of her house.
She closed the door and then a few minutes later looked outside and saw the defendant standing at the bottom of her path with a petrol canister in his hands.
Defence solicitor Bobby Rea contended that barring a few lesser incidents previously, the main offending has happened when he reached the age of 70.
“There’s been a recent deterioration,” said Mr Rea. “Now there’s been what could be described as a real escalation.”
Mr Rea, describing the incident as “ridiculously unfortunate” for the injured party, contested that “by the time the police arrived a substantial period of time has elapsed, and yet he’s still standing there…”
“He had ample opportunity to carry out the threat and clearly didn’t. It’s still despicable, the course of events; that has to be accepted, but it does show that he wasn’t intending to do it.”
Mr Rea, by way of explanation, said his client had suffered “five heart attacks and a number of other physical conditions” for which “he has been taking medication with heavy intake of alcohol”.
“While that doesn’t excuse him, it may lead to some explanation as to why someone in more recent times has fundamentally changed conduct, whereas prior to that point, there was not even any sign of any degree of that; it’s a recent deterioration.”
District Judge Laura Ievers, in passing sentence, remarked: “Your neighbour says that you walked over to her car, you asked her to put the window down, and then asked her to take you to some girl that you visit in Armagh.
“And when she said she couldn’t, then you assaulted her by grabbing her arm. She asked you to stop; you squeezed harder. You then clenched your fist and pressed it against her cheek. She was frightened. You then use derogatory language; you called her a b*****d and a tramp, and repeatedly told her that you hated her. You then threatened to burn her out. And then shouted that you would burn her and a neighbour out.”
Judge Ievers said the victim was “left extremely frightened with a sore wrist” and that she now “struggles to sleep at night”.
“She was absolutely terrified because at the time you made this threat you had a can of petrol in your hand.”