A young mum glassed her best friend in the face by “accident” as they “swilled” each other with wine – for a “laugh”.
A court heard that Sarah Reilly, 20, deliberately “smashed” a glass in the face of Lara Hall, 21, then jabbed its broken stem into her nose.
But the defendant claimed she did not mean to her hit her pal, only struck her once – and that it was “definitely an accident”.
Reilly, a mum-of-one, admitted wounding on the basis that she did not throw the first drink but “instinctively responded”.
Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, told Liverpool crown court Reilly accepted her glass hit Ms Hall.
But she claimed she only intended to throw its contents.
Judge Neil Flewitt, QC, said this “plea on the basis of recklessness” was “very close to being an accident”.
But it was rejected by the prosecution, who insisted it was a “deliberate and unprovoked attack”, meaning a Newton Hearing – a form of mini trial where a judge establishes disputed facts – was held.
The pair were drinking at Ms Hall’s home in St Helens, with friends Jordan Doherty and James Duxbury, at around 3.30am, on October 29 last year.
Ms Hall, who gave evidence from behind a screen, said after going to her back door for a cigarette, she returned to a sofa and sat down next to Reilly.
She told the court: “I turned round to look at her and she smashed a wine glass in my face.”
The victim added: “I had to look down and pick the glass out of my eye.”
Ms Hall said: “As I opened my eyes, all I saw was the stem of the wine glass then coming towards my face into my nose.”
The victim alleged Reilly didn’t say anything before glassing her.
When cross-examined by Reilly’s lawyer Carmel Wilde, the victim denied they had been throwing drinks on each other for a “laugh and a joke” and that she first “swilled” Reilly with rosé.
Ms Wilde said: “As she closed her eyes as a result of the wine going in her eyes, she then went to swill you back as part of the fun if you like.”
“No, that’s not what happened at all,” said Ms Hall.
Ms Wilde said: “And as she threw the drink back at you, the glass smashed in your face accidentally.”
“No,” Ms Hall replied.
Ms Hall suffered a 1cm to 1.5cm long “superficial wound” to her forehead, which was glued shut, a 4cm “superficial scratch” to the left side of her nose and a 2cm “superficial wound” to the right nostril.
Ms Wilde suggested that if Reilly had “jabbed” the broken glass at her, she would have received “slash marks”.
In a Snapchat conversation the next day, witness Mr Doherty told Ms Hall he thought it was an accident.
Ms Hall replied: “It might be an accident, but an accident is spilling a drink, not making me get stitches in my face.”
She denied this was her accepting it was an accident, stating: “I meant even if it was an accident, not that it was an accident.”
The victim said she later reported the attack when it “sunk in what had happened”, adding: “I never thought my best friend would hurt me in any way.”
She said Reilly hadn’t been apologetic and claimed Mr Doherty was just “backing up” his long time friend Reilly.
Judge Flewitt asked Ms Hall: “Is there any reason, anything that happened that evening, that might have given your best friend cause to do such an awful thing to you?”
Ms Hall replied: “No, no reason at all.”
Reilly, of Frodsham Drive, St Helens, gave the same explanation of the “accident” when she was interviewed by police.
Giving evidence, she said her eyes were “stinging” after Ms Hall swilled her with a drink.
She said: “I went to swill her back, she came towards me at the same time, obviously I couldn’t see, so my glass has collided with her face.”
Reilly denied any second thrust of the glass and said: “I just kept apologising and asking if she was okay and telling her that I didn’t mean it.”
She said Ms Hall “made up” her version of events, telling the court: “Maybe it was her family, maybe it was the seriousness of the injuries, I don’t know.”
Reilly added: “It was definitely an accident.”
Mr Doherty said he and the two women had been “swilling” each other with drinks “just having a laugh”, before Reilly accidentally injured Ms Hall.
Ms Wilde said: “Did you see Sarah Reilly pick up the stem of the glass and go at Lara’s face again?”
He replied: “Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous.”
Judge Flewitt said Reilly’s basis of plea was in “stark conflict” with Ms Hall’s version of events.
The judge said he couldn’t be sure it happened the way Ms Hall said and ruled in favour of Reilly.
He said his reasons included they were both drunk, which affected their reliability; Mr Doherty supported Reilly’s account; and Ms Hall was initially reluctant to report it or go to hospital.
Judge Flewitt took into account the Snapchat message and said: “The injuries are not what one would expect to see if there were two forceful blows to the face, the second of which was delivered with a broken glass.”
He added: “If the prosecution version is correct, this was apparently a motiveless attack, by one best friend on another.”
Ms Wilde said Reilly was of previous good character, had a two-year-old child and worked in the care industry.
He told her: “If I had thought or I had been sure that you had behaved as Lara Hall said and deliberately thrust that glass twice into her face, you would be going to prison.”
Judge Flewitt said he would sentence her according to her basis of plea.
He said: “Although that technically amounts to an admission of behaving recklessly, it’s very close to what was described initially as an accident.
“But it was a stupid thing to do, to get so drunk that you behaved in a way you couldn’t control what you were doing, and led to a situation where you could have caused really serious injuries to somebody, who was until then a very close friend of yours.
“You’ve lost that friendship, you’ve had to go through the process of appearing before this court and faced the risk of going to prison.
“I hope you’ve learned a lesson from that and we won’t see you again.”
Judge Flewitt gave her an 18-month community order, with a 20-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement and 80 hours of unpaid work.