Jury fails to reach verdict in case of men accused of violent attack

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A jury presiding over a trial in Belfast where two men stood accused of attacking another man in the Tigers Bay area of the city has failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for two days.

The two accused – Piaras Samuel Devenney, 27, from Rosemount Gardens in Belfast and 28-year-old James Sean William Paul Edwards from Ashfield Drive in Donaghadee – will find out later this week if there will be a retrial.

Following a trial which was opened last week, the jury of seven woman and five men spent two days deliberating on whether or not the two accused were guilty or not guilty of unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous bodily harm to a 36-year old north Belfast man with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm.

After deliberating for what Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said was a “considerable length of time”, the foreperson confirmed they had not reached a verdict and were unlikely to do so.

The complainant, who gave evidence during the trial at Belfast Crown Court, made the case he was attacked by Devenney and Edwards after attending a social gathering at a woman’s house on Glenrosa Street on the evening of June 24 last year.

He said that after leaving the house he was followed onto the street by the pair. He said Edwards had a claw hammer in his hand, that Devenney was also holding an object and that he was attacked by Edwards who struck him several times. He said the last thing he remembered before being rendered unconscious was being hit on the back of the head.

His version of events was rejected by both Devenney and Edwards, who each claimed that after being asked to leave the party, the complainant returned to the house a short time later, armed with a hatchet and hammer.

The two defendants, who also gave evidence in court, said that when the complainant returned to the house, the female occupant handed them trampoline poles.

During the altercation, the 36-year-old complainant received several injuries and was treated in hospital for mild swelling of the brain, two fractured fingers and other cuts and bruises.

The co-accused both said they acted in self-defence and that any injuries caused to the complainant were done so whilst defending themselves. Edwards also made the case that as well as defending himself and Devenney, he was also trying to protect the female occupant.

After neither a unanimous nor a majority verdict was reached, Judge Miller discharged the jury, then asked prosecuting barrister Mark Farrell to discuss “what the next stage is” with the directing officer.

The case has been relisted for this Friday when it will be determined whether or not there will be a retrial.

Devenney and Edwards were both released on continuing bail.