Former health secretary Robin Swann wrote a referral for a man jailed for punching and kicking a blind man, a court heard.

Roy Gilmour, 61, of Tullymore Park in Ballymena, was jailed for three months after pleading guilty to the assault, which occurred after the victim accidentally hit him with his walker.

A judge at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court described Gilmour’s actions as “unthinkable” and added: “I am not sure that Mr Swann wants his name associated with the accused.”

District Judge Nigel Broderick heard the UUP North Antrim MLA granted the referral for the accused without knowing the full background of what happened.

The UUP was asked for an opinion.

The court heard the attack took place on November 25 last year in Wellington Street.

The victim was described as a 63-year-old man who is registered blind with only 10-15% vision and uses a walker for mobility.

He was walking down the street when he came across Gilmour and his disabled son, who also has poor eyesight.

The court heard how Gilmour reacted angrily by punching his victim three times in the face and then kicking him, sustaining injuries to the disabled man’s nose and cheeks.

During police questioning, Gilmour claimed he acted in self-defence – a claim the judge rejected because the incident was caught on mobile phone footage.

Defense barrister Grant Powles said he accepted and that Gilmour was “remorseful” that his behavior had erupted as a result of the “descending red mist”.

The judge sentenced Gilmour and described the incident as “shocking”. He said that while he accepts that caring for a disabled child can be stressful, “there is no excuse or justification for attacking this man”.

Although he served prison time, Gilmour was released on bail following a defense motion pending an appeal of the sentence.

Mr Swann’s letter comes after a UUP election candidate was criticized for a court referral for a man jailed for assaulting his ex-wife.

In the letter, Brian Kerr, who will be elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey City Council in May, said Thompson Beckett had made a “positive difference to the community” during the Covid crisis.

Women’s Aid said the letter should not have been provided, but Kerr said it “provides statements of fact, not statements of support”.

Earlier this year it emerged that a DUP MP had written a court letter to a Tory MP accused of sexually assaulting children in support of his bid to silence the press.

Jim Shannon asked the court to keep secret the identity of Imran Ahmad Khan, who was later convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

In his handwritten letter on House of Commons paper, he warned that Khan could face a “clear and real threat” because of his Islamic religion.

Strangford’s MP later said he was “unaware” of the charges Khan was facing when he wrote the letter and said he believed it was a bullying complaint.

Khan, 49, denied groping the teenager at a party in Staffordshire in January 2008, but was found guilty after a trial. He has since resigned as Wakefield MP and been expelled from the Conservative Party.

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