A MAN doing a university Masters Degree who made “lewd” comments to female customers in a hotfood takeaway in Portstewart and later confronted them outside, punching them in the face before threatening them with a broken bottle, has avoided jail.
John Cochrane (39), of Whyns Crescent, Portstewart, attacked the women in seaside resort after 11.15pm on Sunday June 3 this year, Coleraine Magistrates Court heard on Friday.
A prosecutor said two women were in the food premises when the defendant made “lewd” remarks and told one of them “you’re coming home with me” and when she replied “I don’t think so”, the defendant said: “F–k you b-tch” before leaving.
When the women left, Cochrane approached them and punched one of them four times in the face knocking her to the ground.
When her friend intervened she was punched in the face before the defendant smashed a bottle and brandished it at them although he didn’t strike them with the jagged glass.
When police arrived Cochrane was pointed out and he was shouting and roaring on the street.
When arrested he headbutted a police officer on the back of the head at Coleraine Police Station.
Cochrane was interviewed and told police he had little recall as he had downed “at least 20 pints” on top of medication for his mental health.
The prosecutor said the defendant appeared genuinely remorseful and asked for his apology to be passed on.
Cochrane, who had a clear record, pleaded guilty to charges of assault and possessing a broken bottle as an offensive weapon.
Defence barrister Michael Smyth said Cochrane had taken “copious” amounts of alcohol through one day and into the next day and had been on different medication after receiving a different diagnosis for his underlying mental health condition.
Mr Smyth said the incidents were “unsavoury and couldn’t be justified” and that the level of drink was not an excuse.
He said Cochrane hopes to complete a Master’s Degree and become a researcher.
District Judge Liam McNally said two women who were unknown to Cochrane were out for a night and were confronted in a takeaway and then afterwards “for absolutely no good reason you punch them causing them injuries”.
He added: “When you are arrested you headbutt the officer in the police station”.
The judge said that would normally merit a jail term of at least four months but against that the defendant had a clear record; had pleaded guilty and was “genuinely regretful”.
He said Cochrane was also engaging with an addictions service.
Judge McNally said on the night in question the defendant had let his standards drop in a major way.
The judge said he had to decide the best way to protect the public.
He said if he sent Cochrane to prison for four months he would be out in two and instead put him on Probation for two years with a condition that he gets addiction counselling and co-operates with mental health services.
The judge warned that if Cochrane did not comply with the court Order he faced four months in prison.
Judge McNally also ordered him to pay £200 compensation to each of the women and £100 compensation to the police officer.