Attacker walks free after sectarian hate crime charge dropped

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The wife of a Catholic building contractor brutally assaulted in County Down two years ago said his family are fearful of going into the town after his attacker escaped jail.

Gary Chambers, from Ballymartin, admitted to causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) to Paschal Morgan as he walked home in Kilkeel late on July 14, 2019.

Mr Morgan was left with bruising to the front of his brain, fractures to his skull, nose, cheekbones and left eye socket, and had to have extensive surgery following the attack.

During earlier court hearings, the prosecution said the case was being treated as a “sectarian hate crime”. Up to 35 witnesses were set to give evidence in the case.

But in March, Chambers pleaded guilty to GBH and attempting to cause criminal damage. A hate crime motivation was originally considered as an aggravating factor but was not proceeded with. Chambers was handed a three-year suspended jail sentence at Newry Crown Court this week, meaning he would serve no time in jail.

Mr Morgan’s wife Rachel said the family feel that they have received “no justice”.

“Chambers was just able to walk away,” she said. “He didn’t seem remorseful at all.”

Mrs Morgan said her husband was targeted because he is from a well-known Catholic family in the town. She said her family still believe it was a sectarian assault.

“It’s so clear it was,” she said. “No one has forgotten about this. Every time I go into the town people ask for Paschal.”

Mrs Morgan said her husband has three plates in his face and still suffers from severe nerve pain and numbness every day.

“His surgeon said that’s it’s as good as it’s going to get,” she said. “It takes up to 18 months for nerve endings to knit together if they’re going to.”

She told the Irish News: “He has constant headaches and memory loss.”

“Chambers can go away and forget about it... but Paschal every day is reminded of it because he’s living with the pain and the tightening of the cheek and face and all the reactions of the plates in his face on his nerve endings.”

Mrs Morgan said the attack had devastated her family, including daughter Shannon, who found her father lying unconscious following the assault, and son Christopher.

She said her husband still finds it difficult to be around loud noises or drunk people. “He is just wary of everything,” she said.

Before Chambers was sentenced, he was prohibited from entering Kilkeel apart from short visits to his grandparents.

Mrs Morgan said her family now fear bumping into Chambers in the town. “We could be standing in a shop and there he’d be,” she said.

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