Loyalist William ‘Mo’ Courtney gets suspended sentence after head butting woman

William Mo Courtney arrives at Belfast high for an earlier court appearance
William Mo Courtney arrives at Belfast high for an earlier court appearance

A top loyalist convicted of head butting a grieving woman during a confrontation over drugs has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence.

William ‘Mo’ Courtney was also ordered to pay Tracey Coulter £500 compensation for the assault on her at a government-funded community centre in west Belfast.

Courtney, 50, from Fernhill Heights in the city, had denied carrying out the attack last July.

It happened after Ms Coulter went to the Lower Shankill Community Association offices to speak to one of his associates about the suspected drug-related death of a relative.

Her cousin Neil Orr had died a week before the incident.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard a row broke out at the centre between Ms Coulter and another man, David Coleman.

She said Courtney then intervened and head-butted her.

The defendant, who was previously jailed for his role in the 2003 killing of UDA man Alan McCullough, had claimed no assault took place.

He stated that he was at the back of the offices at the time and did not even see Ms Coulter.

But District Judge Amanda Henderson found him guilty of common assault following a contested hearing.

During a sentencing hearing today defence counsel Sean Mullan said there was “a degree of acrimony” between Courtney and Ms Coulter.

He accepted his client’s criminal history but argued that his record has diminished in recent years.

“Mr Courtney is still very much involved in community work and still involved in helping others in the local community,” Mr Mullan told the court.

Judge Henderson acknowledged that the assault, which happened during attempts to evict Ms Coulter from the premises, had inflicted only minor injuries.

But she added: “What was of concern to me were a number of unsubstantiated allegations put to the injured party which were not just to discredit her in terms of her evidence, but to discredit her character.

“These were not proven at any stage.”

Imposing a four month prison sentence, suspended for three years, she indicated that Courtney’s future conduct would determine whether he ever has to serve that period.

Judge Henderson further directed: “There will also be a compensation order in the sum of £500.”