A west Belfast man who threatened to shoot prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson has been handed a conditional discharge.
After a short trial at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court last month, a bench warrant was issued for the arrest of 22-year-old Miceal Che Donnelly when he was convicted in his absence of improperly using a public communications network to send a matter that was “grossly offensive or indecent”.
The court heard that Donnelly was “too stressed” to come to court but that warrant was executed in the cells at the same court on Wednesday morning.
During the trial and again on Wednesday a prosecuting lawyer described how Donnelly, from Rosemary House on the Falls Road, sent Mr Bryson a message on Facebook threatening to shoot him.
Quoting the message, the lawyer told the court Donnelly had written to the loyalist flag protestor turned political campaign manager calling him “a rat” and declaring: “Tell ya what see if I ever come across you I would be happy to put you in a coffin you uneducated wee prick – I would shoot you if I had the opportunity.”
Giving evidence to the court in January Mr Bryson told the judge that when he received the message on September 11 2014, “obviously I took it as a threat to my life”.
Arrested and interviewed Donnelly claimed the message had been “tongue in cheek” and while he admitted sending it, “no distress was intended”, and he was drunk at the time.
Conceding that Donnelly’s excuse for his non-attendance was not acceptable, defence barrister Chris Holmes submitted the threat was not intended and was “stupid”.
During his plea in mitigation, Mr Holmes revealed that Donnelly had “significant mental health problems” and had “significant regret” over the incident which he said was “a moment of stupidity”.
Handing down the 12-month conditional discharge, Judge Mark Hamill warned that a threat issued on Facebook or other social media “is still a threat”.
“People have to grasp the idea that Twitter and Facebook do not exist in a vacuum,” said the judge, who warned Donnelly that if he offended again “you will be sentenced again”.