Man almost barred from every bar in the province

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A man who went on a drink “bender” after being released from Holywell Hospital and launched an unprovoked attack on a taxi driver has been told he was came close to being banned from every pub in Northern Ireland.

Samuel Stewart (42), of Trinity Drive, Ballymoney, punched the taxi driver causing his nose to bleed, Coleraine Magistrates Court heard. Stewart committed the offence on August 8 this year before assaulting police officers.

A prosecutor said a drunk male went to the enquiry office at Coleraine Police Station and he matched the description of a man who assaulted a taxi driver. When spoken to at the station Stewart replied: “You are nothing but a f--king a---hole, do you know what you f--king need you d--khead?” before he kicked out.

He told police he had just been released from Holywell after signing himself out and his medication had changed. Stewart told police he couldn’t remember what had happened with the taxi driver but later apologised for the “unprovoked” attack and said he was suffering from depression.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said he was aware District Judge Liam McNally had spoken in the past about the need to protect taxi drivers but said the punch came from someone with mental health problems and drink issues and Stewart was on a “bender” after the break-up of his marriage and the death of his mother.

Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes was standing in for Judge McNally and said he too agrees taxi drivers do need protecting as they work anti-social hours and said in the absence of mental health issues in this case he would have sent Stewart to jail.

The judge also said Stewart had come within a “gnat’s breath” of the court making an order banning him from every bar in NI but he felt banning him from alcohol would set him up to fail. Stewart was given six months in jail, suspended for three years, and ordered to pay £200 compensation to the taxi driver.