A 63-year-old Orangeman accused of driving into crowd at a north Belfast flashpoint, following a contentious loyalist parade in 2015, can’t remember running over a teenage girl, or striking five others, including two police officers.
Prosecuting QC Neil Connor told Belfast Crown Court that John Alexnder Aughey later claimed he felt “in fear of his life”, believing he’d been identified as an Orangeman, and was attempting to “escape from a dangerous and escalating situation”.
Aughey, from Brae Hill Park, Belfast, also allegedly told police that while he can remember what happened before and after the collision, he has “no memory” of striking anyone. He faces several charges including dangerous driving, causing grievous bodily injury to teenager Phoebe Clawson who was left with a broken collar bone, and fractured pelvis and ankle.
Mr Connor told the jury of eight women and four men that by the end of the case they would be satisfied that Aughey’s dangerous driving “fell far below, and we emphasise, falls far below, of what would be expected from a careful and competent driver”.
He added that Aughey’s driving would be obvious to a careful and competent driver that it was dangerous to any person either on or off the road.
As part of the prosecution opening, the jury where shown a police video which captured Aughey’s red Nissan Pulsar car driving across the road and a crowd surging forward only to be stopped by riot police.
The jury also heard that Ms Clawson was trapped under Aughey’s car for a time after being carried on its bonnet for a short distance. She was freed by police who rocked the Nissan onto its side.
Mr Connor said that on that July 13 two years ago, “it was fair to say tension was high” in the area, with a large crowd of people gathering at the Ardoyne flashpoint in opposition to a contentious loyalist parade, banned by the Parades’ Commission from passing the north Belfast shops.
The court heard that Aughey was part of the parade, and with it being prevented from moving any further than nearby Twaddle Avenue, he decided to drive home, up the Crumlin Road and past the Ardoyne shops. Mr Connor said traffic was slow moving and Aughey’s Nissan at times was “essentially” slowed to a stop.
Police CCTV footage, he added, also pictured someone from the crowd moving across and in front of the Nissan, who appeared to kick the vehicle. Mr Connor said the car is then seen “reversing back, and ended up in a diagonal fashion across the road”.
Mr Connor said that what is thought to have been a plastic bottle was thrown at the car and bounced off its roof. Aughey drove his car forward, while the lights on the pedrestrian crossing were at red, and moved onto the opposite side of the road into a bus stop area and partly across an area of parking bays.
The prosecution lawyer said it was at this stage that Aughey “collided with a number of people”, injuring a number of them. “Ms Clawson,” he said, “was impacted by the vehicle, forcing her onto the bonnet of the vehicle”, and as it continued on, she fell and was “dragged forward slightly and was trapped underneath the” Pulsar.
The car was “untimately stopped” by police, who had to “roll the car onto its side to free Ms Clawson,” but not before two offficers were slightly injured when they too were struck by the vehicle.
Mr Connor also told the jury that “one thing is sure”, that the injuries suffered by Ms Clawson, “amounts to grievous bodily injury”.
Aughey denies a total of six charges and in addition to the injuries caused to the teenager, he is also accsued of injuring a ‘community representative’ who was left with a broken wrist, and another young girl who “thankfully received only bumps and bruises”. A man was also left with a sprained wrist, while two police officers were also hurt.