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Soldier who assaulted man and woman outside Co Armagh bar given suspended prison sentence

Defence said it was 'not the end' of the matter for the 26-year-old who would also have a military disciplinary to undergo which could lead to 'fines or loss of rank'

Armagh Courthouse

A soldier who had no memory of assaulting a man and woman outside a Co Armagh pub due to his intoxication has been handed a suspended sentence.

The defendant’s barrister informed court that this was “not the end” of the matter for the 26-year-old, who would also have a military disciplinary to undergo which could lead to “fines or loss of rank”.

Ben Gabriel McElveen appeared for sentencing on assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault at Armagh Magistrates’, Court, sitting at Newry, on Tuesday via videolink from his solicitor’s office.

Prosecution outlined that at approximately 2.15am on December 8, 2019, police received a report of an assault at a local bar.

Officers spoke to one injured party who claimed a man had smashed a glass into his head after declining to go for a smoke with him. Police observed visible cuts to the right side of his head.

Another female claimed that the same male had bit her finger causing her to fall to the ground as she attempted to separate the parties.

The assault on this woman left her with a cut to her arm from falling on shards of glass which required stitches.

Meanwhile, the first injured party also attended hospital for cuts to the head and bruising.

The defendant was later interviewed and during this he claimed that he could not remember the incident due to his level of intoxication.

McElveen said that to be as violent as alleged is out of character and that he would like to apologise to anyone who was at the bar on the night in question.

Defence barrister Scott McWhinney stated: “Mr McElveen candidly goes for his pre-sentence report and accepts he has no recollection of what has happened but does not wish to waste the court’s time.

“This would be something out of character for this man, who would have an exemplary service record in his possession.”

He informed the court that this was “not the end” of the matter for the defendant who would also have a military disciplinary to undergo which could lead to “fines or loss of rank”.

The barrister said: “In the report you will see that Mr McElveen has already lost out on a promotion because of this and we are unfortunately in a position where community service is not an option.

“He has not come to the attention of police in any way shape of form since this incident has occurred. As for the assault occasioning actual bodily harm, it is not the worst that has come before this court.”

Deputy District Judge Philip Mateer stated: “I can’t take the same analysis as you have taken Mr McWhinney. He will be given credit for his guilty plea.

“This is a serious incident and I appreciate that this man has given his service in the army but this has to be marked with prison sentence.”

McElveen was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years and was ordered to pay compensation of £500 to the female injured party within 26 weeks.

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