A County Tyrone man who subjected a couple to a sectarian and homophobic campaign of abuse, has been handed a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay his victims compensation.

Joseph Ernest Moses (53) from Letfern Road, Seskinore initially denied harassing the couple last June, which followed on from assaulting one of them a fortnight before, but changed his plea ahead of a contested hearing.

A defence lawyer stressed while in police interview Moses rejected any suggestion of making homophobic remarks, he now accepts he did but: “Does not harbour any views of that nature.”

Omagh Magistrates Court heard on 30 May 2020 police attended with the victims after one had been assaulted.

Having returned home around 3pm the victim heard Moses shouting homophobic remarks including “Faggot” and “Poofy f***er.”

This continued for some time, leading the victim and his partner to confront Moses, but instead he continued shouting abuse and made a gun gesture towards them.

He then punched the victim in the mouth, cutting his lower lip.

Then on the evening of 14 June 2020 police again attended with the victims after Moses had been heard shouting abuse.

They had been sitting outside the rear of their home and recognised Moses’ voice when he shouted various comments including “Fenian b*****d. Gay b*****ds. Come out here you f***ing poof.”

This lasted for about 20 minutes leaving victims distressed sectarian and homophobic content.

While police were speaking to the victims, Moses again began a tirade of abuse shouting: “You gay c***s. I love women, so did you but now you’re gay. You’re the only gay in the village.”

He was arrested and during interview made ‘no comment’ replies to some questions and denied the homophobic remarks.

The defence conceded Moses has previous convictions but none stem from issues with either injured party.

“It’s very difficult to offer an explanation as to why my client resorted to behave in the fashion, he did," said the defence.

“ I’ve no doubt alcohol was perhaps a factor as regards the negative and very derogatory comments … It has been brought home to him it is not permissible to engage in this type of behaviour to anybody and the courts will not tolerate it.”

District Judge Mark McGarrity accepted the guilty pleas saved the victims having to give evidence in court and took on board the contents of a pre-sentence report, which: “Express remorse and regret, notwithstanding the reticence of the aggravating features of sectarianism and homophobia. That has troubled the court and brings the case within the realms of custody.”

He imposed a combined prison sentence of eight months, but suspended these for three years.

A Restraining Order banning contact by any means with the victims was also granted and Moses is to pay them each £350 compensation.