A woman was left temporarily blinded when her partner sprayed her in the face with a powerful “police pepper spray”, a court has heard.
A drunk Arron Fitzgerald attacked his victim at their home after losing his temper in a cemetery earlier in the day.
Swansea Crown Court heard the defendant later told police that he had bought the German-made spray as protection from the people he was buying his drugs from.
Tom Scapens, prosecuting, said the background to the incident was a visit the defendant and his partner made to a cemetery on January 21 this year, the anniversary of the death of the woman’s sister. While at the graveyard Fitzgerald began looking for the grave of his uncle but could not find it, something which caused him to become angry.
The court heard that the anger continued through the rest of the day and into the evening, and then in the early hours of the following morning police received a 999 call from a concerned neighbour of Fitzgerald in Blaenymaes to report an on-going domestic disturbance.
Police went to the Broughton Avenue address and could hear shouting and screaming coming from inside – going through the unlocked door they found the property in a state of disarray, with items strewn around and damaged, blood on the walls, and a hole in a door which appeared to have been caused by a punch.
Mr Scapens said the officers found the defendant’s partner in the kitchen, bent over the sink washing her face – she told them she had been sprayed in the face with an unknown substance, and was unable to see. The woman was taken outside to get some fresh air, and her sight gradually returned. Meanwhile Fitzgerald was arrested and searched, and was found to be in possession of a can of German-made Magnum Police OC7 pepper spray as well as his phone and his partner’s phone.
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In his subsequent interview 22-year-old Fitzgerald told officers he had bought the spray online to protect himself from his partner’s ex, and from the people he bought drugs from. He claimed his partner had been the aggressor in the incident.
The court heard Fitzgerald’s partner refused to tell police what had happened in the Blaenymaes house that night or how she had come to be sprayed, and refused to give a formal statement or make a complaint.
Arron Fitzgerald – who also goes by the name Arron Doyle – now of Clyne Court, Sketty Park, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited weapon and to administering a noxious thing with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy when he appeared in the dock for sentencing. The court heard he has previous cautions for common assault, and for a public order matter.
Andrew Evans, for Fitzgerald, said it was clear from the contents of a pre-sentence report that the defendant had endured an “appalling childhood”, and had issues with both drink and drugs. The advocate added that his client understood the couple’s relationship was an “unhealthy” one.
Judge Huw Rees said the day in question had been a “highly emotional one”, the situation being further “fuelled” by excessive drinking. He said it must have been an unpleasant experience for Fitzgerald’s partner who had not know what the substance sprayed at her was nor how long its effects would last.
The judge said the pre-sentence report into the defendant was an “entirely supportive document”, and he was prepared to follow its recommendations.
Giving Fitzgerald a one-quarter discount for his guilty pleas the judge sentenced him to 10 months in prison suspended for 24 months, and ordered him to complete an alcohol treatment course, a drug treatment course, and a building better relationships course.
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