Ballymena heroin addict who failed to complete unpaid work following homophobic hate crime is jailed for eight months

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A Ballymena heroin addict who failed to complete unpaid work he was ordered to do after a homophobic hate crime has been jailed for eight months.

James McDowell (27), of Lanntara, appeared before Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday via video link from Maghaberry Prison.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said the initial hate crime had involved “a particularly nasty assault”.

Recently the judge said McDowell had been given Community Service in 2017 when he “probably should have gone to custody”.

Last year, the court heard that McDowell launched a tirade of abuse towards two men in, what was described by a prosecutor, as a “homophobic hate crime”.

McDowell was sentenced last year on charges of assaulting a man and damaging the front door of his property.

A prosecutor had said that in April 2017 two men were approached by McDowell who called them names including “faggots” and “bum boys”.

The lawyer said the assault charge was a technical assault after McDowell threatened to “smash” in the face of one of the men.

The defendant followed the men and continued to dish out verbal abuse and caused damage to a front door.

A defence barrister told the court last year his client’s actions had their “roots in paranoia” as he thought the men were staring at him.

Added the lawyer: “He is categorically not a homophobe; that is not the sort of person who he is, that is something he is adamant about”.

The lawyer said McDowell, who had a record, was remorseful.

At last year’s court, then District Judge Peter King, said it was a “homophobic hate crime”.

He noted the defendant had 64 previous convictions but said he was not going to send him to prison because of a previous plea of guilty and a “relatively positive” pre-sentence report and instead ordered Community Service.

Meanwhile, back at Ballymena Court on October 11, McDowell was also sentenced for a number of offences he admitted including possessing drugs and breaches of Non-Molestation Orders.

On one occasion when police went to his address to speak to him about breaching a Non-Molestation Order he was rolling a cigarette and officers found cannabis in a tin.

On another occasion police spoke to the defendant at Hill Street in Ballymena but he “made off” before being caught and heroin and subutex were found.

McDowell said he paid £25 for the heroin and £10 for the subutex.

On another occasion the defendant breached a Non-Molestation Order by going to a house at 4am and kicking the door and repeatedly ringing a doorbell.

A defence lawyer said McDowell, a father-of-one, is a heroin addict with mental health and learning difficulties and lives “a chaotic lifestyle”.

She said he had been through drug withdrawal in prison, where he was placed for breaching Non-Molestation Orders, and wants to engage with his GP and Addiction Services when he is released.

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