Northern Ireland

Man jailed for attack on charity worker dressed as 'giant heart'

British Heart Foundation
Image caption The victim was collecting money for the British Heart Foundation

A man has been jailed for assaulting a charity worker who was collecting money in the centre of Belfast dressed as a giant red heart.

Jonathan William Meneice, 26, from Victoria Street, Belfast, pushed the charity worker to the ground as he collected outside the British Heart Foundation.

The victim suffered a broken wrist.

Belfast Crown Court heard that the victim could not protect or defend himself because of the heart costume.

The injured man underwent two surgeries and has been left with a permanent metal plate and bolts in his wrist.

Meneice, who appeared in court with 136 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm.

Knocked off his feet

The court heard he had been seen stumbling along Castle Lane before approaching the charity worker.

The defendant was given a 22-month sentence, and told he will spend 11 months in prison, with the remainder on licence when he is released.

The prosecution said Meneice approached the costumed charity worker on 16 October 2015 and "forcefully knocked him off his feet", causing him to fall backwards.

It added that the victim had experienced difficulties because of the wrist injuries.

After being arrested and watching CCTV footage, Meneice admitted he was the attacker, but that he had no recollection of the day in questions

A defence barrister told the court that after viewing the footage, Meneice offered an immediate apology.

"He said he was really sorry, and said he would support charities and he doesn't do stuff like that," the barrister said.

"He also said that if he could do anything to make it better, he would."

'Highly intoxicated'

The defence also said the defendant had a history of drink and drugs abuse, significant mental health issues and "terrifying" episodes of self harm.

Meneice's lawyers also said that, in the CCTV footage, he can be seen "stumbling about the place" and that, while the injured man is on the ground, he walks off and "doesn't seem to know what is going on".

The judge said it was clear from the footage that Meneice was "highly intoxicated".

He also spoke of the "significant" fracture caused to the injured man's wrist and that the incident had resulted in his confidence being shaken.

He added that he accepted Meneice suffered from a range of mental health issues including paranoia, which have worsened due to his "abuse of alcohol and illegal substances".