‘Paramilitary threat’ to teenager accused of slash attack

Court
Court

A teenager accused of slashing a rival’s face with a broken bottle is barred from parts of Belfast due to paramilitary threat, the High Court has heard.

Defence lawyers also claimed he could be attacked by an associate of the alleged victim if he is kept in custody.

Details emerged as a judge ruled he can be released on bail again once an approved address is found.

The accused, who is from the Ardoyne area but not being named for legal reasons, has 65 previous convictions on a record stretching back to when he was aged 12.

They include offences of riotous behaviour, aggravated assault, criminal damage, and multiple breaches of antisocial behaviour orders.

Referring to his record, Mr Justice McLaughlin commented: “He’s hardly out of short trousers.”

He now stands accused of causing grievous bodily harm in an alleged glassing incident last September when he was 17.

The charge relates to a fight at a party where another youth sustained facial scars after being slashed with a broken bottle, the court heard.

Defence counsel Sean Mullan said his client claims to have acted in self-defence.

“His case is that (the injured party) went to strike him with the bottle and there was a struggle,” the barrister submitted.

But after studying pictures of the injuries inflicted, the judge challenged any attempt to describe the encounter as “just a bit of rutting between young teenagers at a party with a few drinks too many taken”.

The accused had been on bail, but was returned to custody after being charged with burglary in a separate incident earlier this month.

A Crown lawyer confirmed police believe he remains under a paramilitary threat that led to him moving out of his community.

He had been excluded from north and west Belfast for his own safety.

However, Mr Mullan claimed the accused has also received threats from others being held at Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre.

“He has told staff in the prison, but attacks do occur, these things happen,” he contended.

Granting bail under strict conditions to approved accommodation, the judge delivered a final message to the teenager as his mother and father listened in the public gallery.

He told him: “You are going to break the hearts of your parents, if you haven’t done that already.”