A Lithuanian national who kicked a man in the face, leaving him with “life-long damage”, because he was from Northern Ireland, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for what has been branded a “hate crime”.
A district judge commented that the 25-year-old, who is also to be deported upon his release, should have been facing Crown Court proceedings.
Gytas Gvozdas, of Clonavon Avenue, Portadown pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where he appeared via videolink from Maghaberry.
Court heard that on September 29, 2014, police on patrol of the Bessbrook area were approached by several witnesses at around 2.05am in relation to an assault.
The injured party was observed to have a cut to the back of his head and a large bruised swelling in his cheek.
Prosecution stated that he was later found to have a broken jaw, with him having to have a plate and four screws during surgery.
District Judge Bernie Kelly stated: “So this is a hate crime, a plate, four screws and two assailants.
“How is this not in the Crown Court? Have you any idea how many years, not months, years, he would get at Crown Court?”
Court heard that witnesses identified Gvozdas and a co-defendant.
The defendant was arrested and made partial admissions during an interview.
District Judge Kelly expressed disbelief, adding: “He was kicked to the face, had a broken jaw, damage to his orbital bone, by two assailants and this is a magistrates’ case?”
Defence counsel claimed that Gvozdas had arrived to find his friend in an altercation with the injured party and then got involved.
He added that the matter had not been dealt with as the defendant had gone home to Lithuania to care for his father who was suffering from heart problems.
District Judge Kelly stated: “You are telling me he had the compassion to go back home for his father’s health but not to nearly kicking a fella to death?”
Court heard that since returning to his native country Gvozdas had been employed including a nine-month service in the army.
Court was informed that the co-defendant in the case was sentenced to six months in prison for the offence.
District Judge Kelly said: “It’s not long enough, I would say this attack was animalistic but that is not fair to animals.”
Defence counsel conceded that the case was “compounded” by the fact that Gvozdas had absconded.
District Judge Kelly stated: “Mr Gvozdas, this was an atrocious attack on another human being. Because of you and your co-defendant this man has been left with life-long damage.
“He was left with a broken jaw which required a metal plate, allied with the loss of teeth and the sensation around his mouth and lips.”
Court heard that after the incident the injured party had to be on a liquid diet for a period of time.
District Judge Kelly added: “All of this was because he was Northern Irish, which makes this a hate crime.”
She commented: “I am hamstrung when it comes to sentencing, as I feel it should be in the Crown Court, and you should be sentenced to years not months.”
Gvozdas was sentenced to 10 months in prison which District Judge Kelly attributed to the hate crime element of the offence and its vicious nature.
She also ordered that upon his release the defendant should be deported as “this level of violence poses a threat”.
District Judge Kelly added: “Someone that dangerous should not be allowed to stay in this jurisdiction.”