Two men and a woman will be sentenced next week for their parts in an incident in which a man was found naked in a wheelie bin in a park in Ballymena.
Details relating to the incident, in September 2013, were outlined at a Crown Court hearing in Belfast today (Tuesday).
Teri Christopher Bernard Lau (28), of Dunclug Park, and David Roddy Patterson (28), of Glendun Drive had previously pleaded guilty to falsely imprisoning Adam Robinson and assaulting him, thereby causing him actual bodily harm.
Paula Wilson (22), originally from Millfield, had previously admitted aiding and abetting the false imprisonment of Mr Robinson, who was found by a dog walker in the town’s Sentry Hill Park on September 3.
Outlining the facts of the case, Crown Counsel Terence Mooney QC said that Mr Robinson had been found “naked, disoriented and dazed” in a blue wheelie bin around 4pm in an area of dense shrubbery. The bin had been sealed with industrial parcel tape with the lid wedged against a tree, the court heard.
Mr Mooney said the incident had arisen following a party at Lau’s house at which the participants had been consuming drugs and alcohol “for several days”.
He said Mr Robinson was “unable to give a clear description of the events leading to his imprisonment in the bin”.
The court was told that while Mr Robinson had sustained “many superficial injuries”, they were described as “minor in nature”, the injured party had been “deeply disturbed by the traumatic events”.
Mr Mooney said that the defendants had made the case the assault had taken place in relation to an alleged sexual assault on Wilson, while they said the defendant had undressed himself to show he was not in possession of cannabis that had gone missing.
He also stated that both Lau and Patterson’s fingerprints had been found on the bin and tape, while Mr Robinson’s clothing had been found at Lau’s house.
The Crown lawyer said CCTV footage showed Lau purchasing tape from a local shop at 1.30pm, while other witnesses in the park heard tape being torn from a roll around 1.50pm, which, Mr Mooney said, indicated that Mr Robinson had been “restrained in this bin, with no hope of escape, for over two hours”. Witnesses also described seeing people matching the descriptions of Lau and Wilson in the park.
“He was deliberately put in a bin to degrade, humiliate or punish him for something that occurred within the household of Mr Lau, at a party fuelled by drink and drugs.
Mr Mooney said the defendants had shown complete disregard and complete indifference to his (Mr Robinson’s) safety.
The court was told of an allegation made by Wilson, who was described as Lau’s girlfriend, that she had been sexually assaulted by Mr Robinson but Mr Mooney said the Crown did not accept that version of events.
The prosecutor said that Wilson had claimed she had left Lau’s home and had gone to her mother’s home that night but her mother said she returned home the next morning, in the company of Lau and Patterson, wearing a “distinctive” watch which was later identified as belonging to Mr Robinson.
Greg Berry QC, appearing for Patterson, said that Mr Robinson himself had a “significant mental history” and “many pre-existing conditions”
He said Patterson’s case was that he “sat and watched” as the bin was left but added: “It has to be accepted that Mr Robinson could not get out of the bin without assistance - he should not have been left in the bin.”
Mr Berry said the only evidence linking Patterson to the offence was DNA on top of the bin, adding that Mr Robinson did not identify his client as being involved during interviews.
He also said that Patterson, whose previous offencing had centred around the abuse of alcohol and drugs, had repeatedly claimed the incident had been “a prank that had gone wrong”.
Brian McCartney QC, appearing for Wilson,repeated the earlier allegation that Mr Robinson had made “a number of inappropriate advances to her, one of which resulted in an assault”.
He said Wilson had not been present throughout the entire duration of the party - which was said to have lasted for several days - but accepted she had a “peripheral” role in the incident and had expressed remorse for it.
Martin O’Rourke QC, appearing for Lau, said his client accepted the assault charge in relation to the “bumps and bruises” Mr Robinson sustained in the bin but did not accept any assault on the injured party prior to that.
He said the defence case was that Mr Robinson had “voluntarily got into the wheelie bin while he was naked” stating the defendant had taken off his clothes to prove that he was not in possession of drugs which had gone missing.
Mr O’Rourke said that the wheelie bin, with Mr Robinson inside, had been taken to a nearby shop in order to buy mixers for drinks and while there, Lau had bought the tape to put on the bin in order to “scare” the injured party, be cause “he had essentially become and annoyance to him”.
He said that Lau had been “reckless” and had “failed to think through the consequences” of his actions.
With regard to the bin being taken to the park, Mr O’Rourke said: “We submit the defendant remained in the park, watching the bin, and saw the passer-by come to the attention of the injured party.”
The barrister also quoted Facebook posts made by Mr Robinson a few days after the incident which, he said, suggested the injured party “was treating what had happened as a fairly trivial matter”.
After hearing the defence pleas of mitigation, Judge Gordon Kerr adjourned the case for sentencing next Thursday, July 1, at Laganside Court.