International footballer jailed for ‘one punch’ attack

Jack Smith
Jack Smith

An aspiring international footballer from Lisburn was jailed yesterday (Monday,September 7) after pleading guilty to a ‘one punch’ attack in which a 16-year-old boy suffered a severe brain injury.

Jack Smith, from Ballymacoss Court, appeared in Craigavon Crown Court charged with inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm on another male in the vicinity of a riot in Lisburn two years ago.

The court heard the assault had no sectarian motive and was unrelated to the riot.

Smith, who was aged 16 at the time of the assault, was said to have been attending a Catholic girl’s 18th birthday party at Lisburn True Blues Club.

It was after the party, a riot having broken out in Sackville Street when bandsmen returned to Lisburn, that a police officer witnessed Smith punch another male.

Now aged 18, Smith appeared at Craigavon Crown Court on Monday and was sentenced to two years detention, six months to be served in a Young Offenders Centre and 18 months on licence.

He was also ordered to pay a £25 Offenders Levy.

At a previous sitting the court heard a riot had broken out close to the True Blues Club in Lisburn on August 31, 2013.

It was claimed that while the club had strong associations with Linfield FC, and was used by band members, it was a cross-community club and had been booked by a Catholic family. Also invitations to the party had been issued on social media.

It transpired that a number of bandsmen had arrived at the club and a group from West Belfast had congregated in the car park at Sackville Street.

Police in riot gear arrived to keep the two crowds apart and it was during this episode that a policewoman witnessed the defendant punching the injured party once in the face.

The injured party fell back without trying to save himself and landed on his back on the tarmac.

Witnesses were said to have heard the sound of the injured party’s head hitting the ground.

Prosecution counsel told the court it was ‘a single punch’ and the injured party was immediately unconscious; despite the fact there were two factions squaring up to each other in Sackville Street that night, they did not take the view that the assault was sectarian.

“The defendant was in the mixed group with the birthday party,” he said. “This does not come before the court as a sectarian offence.”.

The barrister said the injured party sustained traumatic brain injury.

“He had a bilateral brain haemorrhage and the effects are ongoing and remain to this time,” he said.

Smith’s defence barrister, Joel Lindsay, said his client was aged 16 at the time and indirectly knew the injured party.

He added that the injured party appeared to have attended the 18th birthday party due to the social media invitation, although the doormen refused him entry.

Mr Lindsay added that Smith had been innocently coming from the party and neither he nor the injured party were involved in the other disturbance.

He added that the police had come at the end of an incident during which Smith had intervened between the injured party and another friend and had tried to break it up.

The barrister also pointed out that in statements Smith had said: “I know that I should not have done it; it has shown me what one punch can do,”

The court heard Smith was one of eight children and had two Catholic siblings.

An under-19 international footballer who plays with Linfield Reserves, he was said to have attracted the interest of English clubs.

He works full time and his partner, who lives with his family, is expecting their first child.

The barrister said Smith was highly remorseful and realised the sorrow caused to the injured party and his family.

Smith was led to the cells from the dock at Craigavon Crown Court to begin his sentence.