A former international cricketer has been fined by a district judge after being found guilty of arming himself with a hammer and approaching a doorman who put him out of a Belfast pub.
South African-born Rodney Ontong - who played for his country, captained Glamorgan County Cricket Club in the 70s and 80s and later played for several NCU clubs, contested two charges arising from an incident outside Filthy McNasty’s this February.
The 61-year old, from Elm Court in Belfast, denied possessing a hammer on the Dublin Road and of assaulting the doorman of the pub in the early hours of February 5.
However, after hearing evidence from the doorman, a police officer and Ontong, Deputy District Judge Noel Dunlop said he was satisfied that after being told to leave the bar, Ontong returned a short time later with a hammer and that he had the hammer “for one purpose and one purpose alone.”
During Thursday’s’s hearing, Ontong’s defence counsel Mark Farrell said his client’s “stellar career” - which included “playing against the likes of Sir Ian Botham on many occasions” - was cut short in 1988 due to a serious road accident.
Prior to reaching his conclusion, Mr Dunlop heard that the doorman has left his job as a result of the incident, and may now have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The doorman said he was working at Filthy McNasty’s when he was called to the nearby Five Points bar to deal with a man who was barred from both pubs. The doorman said the man in question - Ontong - became aggressive when he was asked to leave.
He said: “He told me I was being racist and told me he would be back for me. I just ushered him out the door.”
The doorman told Belfast Magistrates Court that Ontong left but returned a short time later, asking after him by name. He said Ontong approached him and was shouting at him. He said: “He got right up in my face. I saw he had something in his pocket, it looked like the handle of a hammer.
“His hand went for the hammer and I instinctively just grabbed his hands and his arms.”
The doorman said he and a colleague put Ontong to the ground, and he then removed the hammer from Ontong’s coat pocket. He said two police officers arrived at the scene and Ontong was arrested.
When asked how he felt during the incident, the doorman replied: “I felt frightened to be honest. I thought I was going to be hit with whatever was in his pocket. It turned out it was a hammer.”
He also revealed that as a result of what happened, he has given up his position, and his GP believes he now has PTSD.
Under cross examination by defence counsel Mark Farrell, who represented Ontong during today’s hearing, the doorman accepted he may have called Ontong a b*****d during the incident, but denied using the term ‘black b*****d’.
He also accepted that at no time during the confrontation did Ontong either produce or brandish the hammer. In addition, the doorman confirmed that as he was being restrained, Ontong didn’t kick or lash out in any way.
When he was called to give evidence, Ontong rejected suggestions that after being asked to leave Five Points, he armed himself with a knife and returned to Filthy McNasty’s to confront the doorman.
Instead, he made the case that after being asked to leave, he went home, realised he had left his walking stick in Five Points and returned to the pub simply to retrieve it.
When asked about the hammer, the ex-cricketer said he had used the “small hammer” to fix his bicycle earlier that day, and didn’t realise it was in his coat pocket when he put his coat on to return to the bar to get his walking stick.
Ontong said he was “pretty upset” when he was asked to leave Five Points - especially as he had frequented the bar on previous occasions and wasn’t asked to leave then.
He also claimed that when he returned to the bar and asked to speak to the doorman about getting his walking stick, the doorman “launched a tirade about ‘you are not supposed to be here’.
“He said to me ‘who do you think you are, you black b*****d’ then said ‘this will show you who the boss is.’”
Ontong rejected suggestions that he armed himself with the hammer with the intention of using it as a weapon. He also rejected claimed he lunged at the doorman, and instead accusing him of lying and giving “false evidence”.
When it was put to Ontong that his actions put the doorman in fear, Ontong replied: “Why was he worried about a 61-and-a-half year-old man who is coming asking about a walking stick?”
Telling the court “I never assaulted any doorman”, Ontong said he was the victim of racial abuse and was also assaulted himself during the incident.
Following the hearing, Deputy District Judge Noel Dunlop found Ontong guilty of both offences. He fined Ontong £200 for possessing the weapon, and £150 for assaulting the doorman.