Judge tells man who was part of gang wielding hurling sticks that courts will not tolerate ‘ad hoc vigilantism’

A JUDGE said courts will not tolerate “ad hoc vigilantism” after handing down a four months jail term after a man was injured at his home in an early morning attack by a gang wielding hurling sticks.

Connor Esler (28), of Churchfields, Rasharkin, was at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday for sentencing in connection with an assault on October 28 last year.

Police attended a report of a disturbance at Carnfinton Park in Rasharkin and the incident had concluded by the time officers arrived.

The victim was on the floor of a bathroom vomiting and complaining of head injuries, the court was told.

A prosecutor said it had been alleged a number of people attended the victim’s address “looking for a lighter” and following a dispute three people came back a short time later armed with hurling sticks.

The victim was struck multiple times on the head and body and a bin was thrown against a window.

A defence barrister said the case had been presented to the court on the basis of “joint enterprise” but Esler had played “a lesser role” and after being found guilty of assault maintained his innocence.

The lawyer said the defendant realised there was a real risk to his liberty but the father-of-four had had “something of a sea change in life” and there had been no further difficulties between Esler and the injured party.

The barrister said the offence had not been aggravated by any “sectarianism”

District Judge Peter King said the aggravating features of the case were that the assailants were armed with hurling sticks and at least one of them was masked at 3.30am at the victim’s home.

The judge said one of the attackers had said there would be “repercussions” if police were involved.

He added: “This was a group assault at the injured party’s home at 3.30am. The group were partially masked and armed with hurling sticks.”

Judge King said one of the attackers had said: “No police tonight, no police tomorrow, you have 24 hours to get out”.

Sentencing Esler to four months in prison the judge added: “This is the sort of ad hoc vigilantism that this court will not in any way sanction or condone.

“People have to be safe in their home and people have to be safe from thuggish intimidation”.

After being sentenced to four months in jail and being given a two year restraining order regarding the injured party, Esler had bail fixed for appeal.

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