Three brothers were spared prison on Friday over a hurley stick “revenge attack” against a rival family in Belfast city centre over three years ago.
Jason Phillips (28), of Hertford Crescent, Lisburn, Kevin Phillips (33), of Old Road, Maghaberry, and Michael Francis Phillips (35), of Hannahstown Road, Belfast, all pleaded guilty to a charge of affray.
Also in the dock of Belfast Crown Court was Finton Geraghty (41), of Aughrim Court, Dunmurry, who pleaded guilty to a charge of assisting offenders.
Prosecutor Robin Steer said Kevin Phillips was in the Housing Executive offices in Great Victoria Street on May 21, 2014 around 2.30pm with his three-year-old son when he was attacked by two men, one armed with a crutch.
One of those involved was a member of the McComb family and Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland heard there was “bad blood’’ between the Phillips and the McComb families.
The court heard Kevin Phillips then rang his friend Finton Geraghty who drove brothers Jason and Michael Phillips in his Skoda Octavia car to the scene.
Mr Steer told the court that a traffic attendant saw three men “running across traffic in Great Victoria Street” towards Robinson’s Bar where Kevin Phillips’ attackers were sitting.
Witnesses later told police that Jason Phillips was “swinging the hurley stick like an axe” at one of the men who sustained two lacerations to his head.
The second victim had a pint glass smashed at him and he sustained a number of cuts. Kevin Phillips punched one of the men to the head while Michael Phillips was described as “grappling’’ with the victims.
Police arrived and Michael Phillips was arrested after falling to the ground.
The traffic attendant told police the three men had got of the Skoda car and pointed officers to Geraghty who was still standing at his vehicle.
Jason Phillips was later arrested and DNA found on the hurley stick matched that of the man he attacked outside the bar.
Mr Steer said the affray lasted no more than 45 seconds, adding that the aggravating factors were that a weapon was used in the affray which happened in the middle of the day in front of members of the public.
Sean O’Hare, defence barrister for Jason Phillips, said there had been “bad blood’’ between the Phillip and McComb families which he described as having become “poisonous”.
He told the judge that the background to the inter family feud was “that a female member of one family had made an allegation against a male member of the other family”.
Mr O’Hare added: “There has been nothing since this incident in 2014. Both families are keeping out of each other’s way.”
Judge David McFarland said that the attack outside Robinson’s Bar was “clearly a revenge attack” for the previous assault on Kevin Phillips.
The four defendants have been them 252 previous convictions, some of them for public order and assault offences.
Saying the custody threshold had been passed, the judge said that given there had been no “further flare ups” between the two families, he would suspended the prison sentences to all four defendants.
He sentenced Jason Phillips to two years in custody, Kevin Philips and Michael Philips to 18 months in jail and Finton Geraghty to 12 months in custody.
All sentences were suspended for a period of two years.
At the request of the prosecution, Judge McFarland ordered the destruction of the hurley stick.