Five men to be sentenced for ‘vigilante’ attack in Co Down

Downpatrick courthouse
Downpatrick courthouse

Five men will be sentenced today for carrying out what is described as a “nasty vigilante attack’’ on a man in Co Down.

Ryan Atkinson (28) of Bartley’s Cottage, Ballywalter, David Graeme Browne (25), of Killaughey Road, Donaghadee, James Orr (23), of Well Close, Ballywalter, James Dean Vance, (35) of Springfield Road, Belfast and brother Jonathan Paul Vance (34), of Eccles Street, Belfast, all pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to Ian David Price.

Downpatrick Crown Court heard the five men, some of whom had their faces covered up, armed themselves with hammers, baseball bats and a screw driver to attack their victim over what was described as a “history of bad blood” between them.

Prosecutor lawyer Laura Ivers told Judge Stephen Fowler QC that Mr Price and partner Lisa Gordon were at home in Ballywalter on April 6, 2015.

The couple were asleep when Mr Price heard a “commotion” shortly before 5am and saw “several men coming up the stairs towards him”.

“He recognised three of them as Dean Vance, his brother Paul Vance and Ryan Atkinson.”

After jumping from an upstairs window the court heard Mr Price was cornered in an alley way outside where Paul Vance “struck him”.

The lawyer said a screw driver, base balls and hammers were used and claimed “all five men were involved”.

Mr Price sustained puncture wounds to his lungs and needed a chest drain inserted. He sustained injuries to his scalp and torso, and fractures to his right elbow and left ankle.

All five men were later arrested and police used cell site analysis from mobile phones to track their movements along with DNA and fingerprint evidence.

A barrister for Paul Vance said he apologised for the assault and knew there is a “distinct possibility” of a custodial sentence while a barrister for Chris Holmes for Orr described the assault as “absolutely atrocious behaviour”.

Defence barrister Finbarr Lavery said Atkinson lived alone in a flat which had been broken into three times and through social media he found out that the “person who had committed these offences was the injured party (Mr Price)”.

Mr Lavery added that was why Atkinson “went jointly on this evening with the others to participate in these offences”.

Barrister Richard McConkey for James Dean Vance alleged Price had a “significant criminal record’’ and had threatened Vance.

All five were released on continuing bail.