An Orangeman who dragged a schoolgirl under the wheels of his car after colliding with a crowd of pedestrians at a north Belfast interface was handed a two-year sentence on Friday.
John Aughey showed very little emotion as Judge Patricia Smyth told him he will spend the next 12 months in prison, followed by a further 12 months on licence when he is released from custody.
From Brae Hill Park in Belfast, the 63-year old was found guilty by a jury earlier this year of six offences arising from the collision, which occurred at the Ardoyne shop fronts on July 13, 2015.
Six people, including several police officers, were injured after Aughey tried to make a U-turn into a parking bay. His Nissan Pulsar collided with those standing, resulting in serious injuries caused to a 16-year old who was struck and thrown onto the bonnet before coming trapped under the vehicle.
The teenager - who sustained fractures to her collarbone, pelvis and ankle - was rescued after the vehicle was lifted onto its side by police and others present.
Whilst under the car, Aughey drove over her and she was dragged under the wheels for three seconds. She subsequently said that she felt had Aughey run over her a second time, she would have died.
Judge Smyth spoke of the teenager “suffering a great deal of psychologically and physically”, telling Aughey: “The impact of your offending has had long-lasting effects on her.”
During the trial, the jury was shown CCTV footage of the incident, which occurred around 8.15pm on July 13, 2015. Tensions at the interface were heightened that evening after a Parade Commission’s determination banned an Orange lodge and flute band from returning past the nationalist Ardoyne shop fronts area.
As Aughey was making his way home in his Nissan Pulsar, his vehicle stopped at traffic lights, with his window down and his Lodge insignia visible on his shirt.
Denying he deliberately drove at the crowd of pedestrians, Aughey instead made the case that as he sat in traffic on the Upper Crumlin Road, he became aware of abuse and shouting coming from the crowd in his direction.
He said that after a missile hit his car and his wing mirrow was kicked, in a “blind panic” he tried to perform a u-turn to get back down the Crumlin Road “to the safety” of police lines. He also denied having any recollection of hitting anyone, insisting he acted out of fear.
His defence was rejected by the jury, who convicted him by a majority of 11 to one on all six offences, including two counts of actual bodily harm as well as causing the teenage girl grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving.
Judge Smyth branded the case as “unique” and as Aughey stood in the dock, he was told by Judge Smyth: “Had it not been for the fact that you found yourself in a threatening situation, you would have continued on your journey home and no offence would have been committed.”
However, the judge said that when carrying out the U-turn, there was an “obvious danger that members of the public who were present both on and off the road would suffer serious injury.”
It emerged during the trial that after injuring the teenager and others including a community worker, police tried to get Aughey to stop.
Judge Smyth said Aughey: “You continued to drive after the initial collision, in the face of police attempts to stop you.
“But for the determined an frantic efforts of the police to stop your vehicle, the consequences could have catastrophic.”
As well as being sent to prison, Aughey was also banned from driving for two years and will be required to re-take his driving test.