Court hears Cullybackey man needed brain surgery after neighbour hit him with brush shaft

Court hears Cullybackey man needed brain surgery after neighbour hit him with brush shaft

A COURT heard a Cullybackey man needed brain surgery after a neighbour hit him with a brush shaft when a dispute had arisen about rubbish.

Stephen William Meeke (59), of Station Road, Cullybackey, was sentenced to six months in prison at Ballymena Magistrates' Court for unlawfully and maliciously wounding his neighbour on May 27 last year but bail was granted pending an appeal.

The defendant had previously contested the case but had been convicted of the charge.

A prosecutor told the court this week that on May 27, 2021, police received a report of an assault and when police attended the injured man's top was "covered in blood" and he sustained a "large gash to the back of his head" and a "cut to his lip".

The prosecutor said the man, aged 59, told police there had been an "argument" between him and Meeke "over rubbish being thrown into his garden by the defendant".

The prosecutor said it had been alleged that during the argument Meeke had lifted a brush shaft and hit the man over the head with it and also struck him in the face.

The man attended Antrim Area Hospital for treatment but during the night he had "taken a turn for the worse" and was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he was "rushed in to surgery as he had a bleed on the brain".

Surgery was carried out and the bleed to the brain was drained and staff believed a second brain bleed had been hopeful would "resolve itself".

Staff were unable to confirm how many stitches were needed for the "significant" cut to the back of his head and his left eye was bloody; the area around his eyes and lips were reddened and swollen and he had a "weakness in his arms".

The prosecutor said at the time staff described his condition as "critical but non life-threatening".

When interviewed the defendant said the neighbour had entered his garage in connection with the rubbish issue and he alleged the injured party punched him on the shoulder which caused a "flare-up" of arthritis and in response he "threw a brush shaft" which struck his neighbour.

The defendant alleged the man had then gone to his own garden "and attempted to make the wound to the back of his head worse".

Meeke said he asked his neighbour if had wanted him to phone for an ambulance or for the police and claimed the injured man "declined" the request.

The prosecutor said initially the defendant wanted to make a "counter-allegation" but later declined to provide a statement.

During a second interview, Meeke told police he saw the neighbour "lift a mop shaft from his garden and walk down the laneway towards the road" and said the mop shaft had a "round metal bit on the bottom" and the neighbour used it to "dip his oil tank".

Defence barrister Chris Sherrard said Meeke had been convicted at a contest.

He said there was "somewhat of a confused picture as to the exact sequence of events" but it was clear the neighbour sustained a "very significant injury, unfortunately" but "we understand that he has recovered and that there has been no lasting damage".

He said it was also significant that although the men lived "cheek by jowl" there had been no further "flare-ups" or "hostilities" since the "unfortunate incident".

The lawyer said the defendant regretted the offence which had been a "non-premeditated, brief, assault".

The defence barrister said during the contest the defendant had put forward a "self-defence case" but there had been an "inability to articulate" that.

The lawyer said Meeke was a man with "very constrained cognitive abilities".

He added: "Without wishing to lay any blame against the complainant there was a degree of provocation because of previous history with regards to litter going over the boundary between the two parties but clearly not justifiable in terms of the actions taken by Mr Meeke".

The lawyer said the end of the brush shaft had a "metal tip".

District Judge Nigel Broderick said the injuries were "not consistent with just throwing a brush shaft at the victim".

The judge said that during the contest he noticed the victim had a "pronounced shake in his right hand" and the victim had indicated he had not been able to drive since the incident and he was attending physiotherapy.

The judge said the victim had also some injuries to his teeth.

Judge Broderick said his recollection was that the victim had been unable to work following the incident.