violent outburst | 

Sectarian thug who bit cop and called others ‘fenian b*******’ at wedding is jailed

39-year-old James Steele “ran and launched himself in the direction of Constable Smyth, attempting to swing a punch at him” but failing

Paul HigginsSunday Life

A Co Antrim man who bit a police officer and launched “disgraceful” sectarian abuse at cops at a wedding has received a four-month prison sentence.

Ballymena Magistrates Court heard on Thursday that James Steele was on bail for an earlier assault on police when officers were called to a fight at a wedding at the Leighinmohr House Hotel on September 22 last year.

A prosecuting lawyer said that while officers were speaking to security staff, 39-year-old Steele “ran and launched himself in the direction of Constable Smyth, attempting to swing a punch at him” but failing.

Taken to ground “by reasonable force”, Steele, the court heard, bit an officer’s left hand and called the cops “fenian b*******” and threatened to “smash your face in”.

Put into a police-cell van, Steele “continuously kicked at the inner door” and, although he refused to answer questions, he later entered guilty pleas to assaulting and resisting police, attempted criminal damage and disorderly behaviour.

At the time, Steele, from Riverdale Maisonettes in Larne, was on bail for an incident on February 15 last year during which he assaulted police.

In that case, cops were called to Steele’s parents’ home where he “became volatile” and spat in an officer’s face; Steele admitted two counts of assaulting police and one of resisting police.

Admitting both offences showed “appalling behaviour”, defence counsel James Lannon said Steele had mental health problems, having been diagnosed as schizophrenic in 2020.

“He consumes alcohol — that negates his medication. He hears voices in his head and that results in violent outbursts,” said the lawyer, adding Steele “accepts his behaviour is not acceptable and regrets his actions”.

“His verbal utterances to police are simply appalling and disgusting,” said District Judge Austin Kennedy.

Imposing three months for the February offences and four months for September’s, the judge ordered them to be served concurrently, but before Steele was taken to the cells, Mr Lannon applied for bail pending an appeal of the sentences.

Granting that application and ordering Steele to be freed on £500 bail, the judge warned him: “This behaviour must stop.”

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