A boss at one of Northern Ireland’s top nightclubs has been acquitted on charges of assaulting two customers.
Mark McCourt, 35, was also found not guilty of attacking a third man outside Thompsons Garage in central Belfast two years ago.
The case against the venue’s part-owner and two co-accused was thrown out after one of the alleged victims was held to have lied about having no criminal record.
Defence counsel claimed his behaviour had rendered proceedings “rotten”.
Clearing all three defendants at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes warned he may refer that man to the Public Prosecution Service for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
He said: “There is a taint that has come on this case by what has been described by myself as a deliberate lie to the prosecution by a main prosecution witness.”
Mr McCourt, of Pattersons Place in the city, denied charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two counts of common assault.
Joseph Doyle, 28, from Cliftonville Road, and 51-year-old Seamus Deeds, of Horn Drive – both in Belfast – each contested a single count of common assault.
Charges were brought over an incident at the venue on March 12, 2015.
Two of the alleged victims were said to have met Mr McCourt in the club and received free drinks following a complaint about not getting served.
One of them claimed he became involved in a brief scuffle with the owner which he described as “friendly banter”.
He and his friend then left the premises along with Mr McCourt and a number of bouncers.
The alleged assaults took place in an outside alleyway.
With CCTV footage of both incidents shown during the hearing, the two friends claimed door staff forced them to the ground and either punched or kicked them.
But Martin Morgan, representing Mr McCourt, put it to one of the pair that he grabbed his client by the throat and slapped him on the head during their encounter inside the club.
He argued that the complainant then lunged again towards the defendant outside the venue.
Mr McCourt pushed him away due to his aggression, the barrister contended.
A third man allegedly assaulted by the nightclub boss in the alleyway was due to give evidence as the case resumed on Thursday.
But a prosecution barrister confirmed she was not calling on him following the disclosure of his past convictions.
The man sought permission to remain in court to take notes, only to be ordered to leave by Mr Holmes.
“He needs to be removed immediately and I may well refer him for attempting to pervert the course of justice,” the judge said.
Defence lawyers successfully applied to have all charges dismissed at the close of the prosecution case.
Mr Morgan questioned the lying witness’s reasons for being at the scene, adding that he had also been sending letters to the city council.
“This is someone who the Crown concede is not a witness of truth and who hasn’t been called to give evidence,” the barrister submitted.
“It injects a flavour into this case and creates an environment where it’s just rotten.”
Aquitting all three defendants, Mr Holmes held that the CCTV footage showed Mr McCourt was himself attacked both inside and outside the club.
He said: “There’s not a possibility I would ever be convinced of their guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”