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Man assaulted girlfriend and friend after barbecue she hosted to introduce him to pals

Defendant had drank beer and shots before incident

A Portadown man assaulted his girlfriend and another female during a barbecue she was hosting to introduce him to her friends.

He did so after drinking a large quantity of beer and spirits and has been ordered to pay his victims – including his now ex-girlfriend – a total of £1,500 in compensation.

One of the injured parties was the defendant’s girlfriend (at the time), who had been hosting the barbecue at a house in  Jubilee Park in Armagh.

Appearing before the city’s Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday was Lee Carl Stephens, who has been ordered to complete a 12-month combination order to deal with his alcohol problems.

The 35-year-old, of Craigavon Avenue, pleaded guilty to two counts of common assault on June 24.

Court heard Stephens, on the evening of June 23, had attended the barbecue at the address in Armagh and drank a large quantity of alcohol.

At around 12.30am the defendant began to verbally abuse those at the party and slapped his then-girlfriend on the back of the neck saying, “all good”.

The woman then asked that Stephens leave the house at which point he grabbed her by the back of the neck.

The defendant proceeded to grab her by the upper arms and shake her saying: “I love you. I don’t want to go.”

Stephens was forced out of the house by his ex-girlfriend but then repeatedly banged on the glass pane of her front door.

The ex-girlfriend then went outside to calm the defendant down as she feared he would wake up her daughter who was asleep upstairs.

At this point, a female friend of the injured party came outside and told Stephens not to hit her.

The defendant then grabbed the friend by the hair and pulled her to the ground on the front garden, before punching her five or six times on the right side of her head.

Police were called at 10am and Stephens was subsequently arrested.

The court heard that the defendant was a married man who had two daughters in England, whom he sees three times a year and who live with his estranged wife.

Defence counsel explained that Stephens began the relationship with one of the injured parties via the internet and that the woman was originally from Lithuania.

On the day in question, the ex-girlfriend had organised a barbecue at her home so that the defendant could meet her friends.

Defence counsel claimed that during the day Stephens consumed “a very high intake” of alcohol which “consequently left him very, very intoxicated”.

Court heard that along with “a number of beers” the defendant had taken “shots of Lithuanian spirits” which were between 40 % and 50% alcohol.

Defence counsel stated that Stephens became “annoyed” when his girlfriend began speaking in Lithuanian as he thought she was either ignoring him or passing comment on him.

He continued saying: “Mr Stephens suffered injuries himself and indicated when interviewed that he didn’t think he did this.”

However, defence counsel accepted this may have been down to the defendant’s intoxication stating, “he has to accept that his behaviour was unacceptable”.

Court heard Stephens had one previous entry for common assault, which occurred when he was 14, but after that had only committed several motoring offences.

District Judge Paul Copeland told the defendant: “The sole reason that you got involved in this was your excessive drinking, but that is no excuse in the eyes of the law or any right-thinking member of society.”

He added: “Assault on females are, well certainly in my eyes, aggravating offences, but fortunately for you given your intoxication you were unable to leave any lasting damage.”

Judge Copeland explained that these types of offences normally warrant a custodial sentence, but given Stephens’ position to pay compensation there was the alternative of a combination order.

The defendant was sentenced to an order including 100 hours of community service and 12 months of probation for him to deal with his alcohol problem.

Stephens was also ordered to pay £500 and £1,000 to the injured parties as a way of compensation within 12 weeks.

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