A 37-year-old man has avoided a prison sentence for assaulting a woman and taking part in a late-night street brawl because he had already spent almost a year behind bars awaiting his day in court.
Richard Murray was instead handed community service and put on probation for the two drink-fuelled incidents which took place last year.
The sentence was handed down in the Royal Court yesterday (Friday 24 January) by Commissioner Sir Michael Birt.
He informed Murray that he was “extraordinarily fortunate” not to be sent to prison for the offences, telling him that the Court had opted for a community-based sentence to ensure that Murray receives the help he needs to turn his life around.
Summarising the first offence of breaching the peace by fighting, Crown Advocate Chris Baglin told the Court that the incident occurred on 26 April 2019 after Murray had been drinking at the Halkett pub.
Pictured: The Court was told Murray had been drinking at the Halkett on the night in question (Google Maps).
The prosecutor relayed that Murray was very drunk on his way home and one witness stated that “he appeared to be trying to start an argument with anyone he walked by”.
On his way home, he became embroiled in an argument with three other men on New Street, which, the Crown Advocate explained “escalated into a fight”.
The Crown Advocate continued: “The fight, some of which took place in the middle of the road and obstructed moving traffic, involved pushing and shoving as well as punches being thrown.”
The Court was told that during the fight, Murray “was forced to the ground”.
Some of the brawl was captured on CCTV; footage that shows Murray “pull another male to the floor and then kick him twice in the torso”.
Two other men involved in the struggle were charged and sentenced in the lower, Magistrate’s Court.
Of this first charge, Murray’s lawyer Advocate James Bell emphasised that although Murray participated in the fight, he was not “the initial aggressor”, claiming that his client was “very much on the receiving end here” and “very much received the worst level of injuries compared to anyone else".
Pictured: Parts of the fight were captured on CCTV.
Reminding the court that the other two brawlers had only been fined £500 for their part in the fight, Advocate Bell asked that Murray’s sentence is not unduly harsh in comparison. He also noted that Murray’s time on remand – equivalent to 12 months' imprisonment – was sufficient punishment for the offence.
Murray also faced another conviction for an assault on a woman.
Describing the incident, Crown Advocate Baglin said that Murray and the woman had been involved in an argument which culminated in him pinning her down, covering her mouth and physically restraining her.
The Court was told that Murray “pushed” her down “and climbed on top of her".
Crown Advocate Baglin continued: “He straddled her and held her down by her wrists. [She] struggled to get up but the defendant prevented her. She told him that he was hurting her and scaring her.”
After briefly cooling off, the argument flared up again and Murray pushed her down a second time whilst “she shouted at him to stop”. At this point, he “placed his hand over [her] mouth in order to stop her shouting”.
Regarding this offence, Advocate Bell said that his client was “genuinely remorseful for his actions”.
The defence lawyer also emphasised that, whilst Murray was on remand, he had made “positive use of his time in custody” by working, behaving well and accessing the available counselling services.
“The effort and engagement that Mr Murray has shown is not common,” Advocate Bell said.
This, the lawyer argued, that “bodes well as to his motivation to engage with a community-based order".
Overall, the prosecution recommended a sentence of 100 hours community service and a 12-month probation order – given the time Murray had spent on remand and the importance of him accessing specialised support to tackle his aggression and alcohol use.
Pictured: Murray appeared in the Royal Court for sentencing after the equivalent of a year on remand.
They also asked for an exclusion order from licensed premises to be imposed.
The defence, however, felt that time served was a sufficient punishment for both offences and invited the court not to make an exclusion order.
Handing down the decision, Sir Michael - sitting with Jurats Paul Nicolle and Geoffrey Grime - addressed Murray directly, saying: “On the face of it, you deserve to go to prison.”
Although, he said that the court has “just been persuaded” to impose a non-custodial sentence due to the time spent on remand and to allow him access to the services available through probation would better take account of “the interests of society".
The Commissioner warned: “You say that this is a turning point in your life, we hope very much that you mean that… this seems the right time to give you an opportunity to prove it.”
This said, the Court imposed a sentence of 60 hours community service, a 12-month probation order and a six-month exclusion order.
Before dismissing Murray, the judge reiterated his warning that the defendant has been “very lucky” to avoid spending more time in prison and reminded him of the importance of following the court’s orders exactly.
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