Richard Joseph Fullerton freed after assault on pregnant girlfriend

Image caption The judge told Fullerton what he had done was 'despicable'

A County Londonderry man who admitted punching a pregnant woman in the stomach has escaped jail.

Richard Joseph Fullerton, 20, of Leckagh Drive, Magherafelt, received a suspended detention sentence for common assault at Antrim Crown Court.

Fullerton had been cleared last month of the more serious charge of assaulting his former girlfriend with intent to procure a miscarriage.

Judge Desmond Marrinan told Fullerton that what he had done was "despicable".

He also told Fullerton if at the time of the offence in February 2010 he had been a man, or even a little older, he "would have had no hesitation in sending you to jail".

Fullerton's former girlfriend wants to remain anonymous to protect her daughter.

Lashed out

She said she never wanted Fullerton jailed and was "happy enough" with the sentence he was given.

An earlier court heard that Fullerton encouraged his girlfriend to slip off to England for a supposed holiday, but in reality to have an abortion.

A defence lawyer said that despite Fullerton's offending a healthy and happy young child was born, and by his guilty plea he had saved his former girlfriend the strain of appearing in court.

He said that when told of the pregnancy, a young Fullerton had hit out in a momentary lapse of self-control, and had been candid enough to acknowledge that having panicked and lashed out, his actions were unacceptable and reckless.

The judge, in suspending Fullerton's two-month detention sentence for a year, said his hand was "stayed", given his clear record, guilty plea and positive reports showing he was actually growing into a decent young man.

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