Woman accused of bottle striking ‘acted in self-defence’

Laganside Courts, Belfast
Laganside Courts, Belfast
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A 39-year old Co Antrim woman on trial for striking a man with a bottle in a west Belfast social club claimed she was acting in self-defence, a court heard on Tuesday.

Diane Donnelly was charged with wounding the fellow reveller during an altercation in the hallway of the Cypress Street Social Club in March 2016.

From Bellevue Place in Ballyclare, Donnelly is accused of “deliberately” striking the man with a beer bottle, which the Crown say smashed on impact with his head.

The injured man was taken to hospital where he received staples to close a 2cm cut to his forehead.

As Crown barrister James Johnston opened the Crown case to a jury of seven men and five women at Belfast Crown Court, it emerged that when arrested, Donnelly claimed that just prior to the incident in the hallway, the injured party had sexually assaulted her in the lounge of the club.

Addressing the jury, Mr Johnston said that on March 20, 2016 Donnelly was in the club on the lower Falls with a group of people, as was the injured party. A verbal altercation broke out between a man in Donnelly’s group and the injured party, who sustained a punch.

The DJ at the club saw what happened and led the injured party from the lounge. They were followed into the hallway where a further verbal altercation occurred.

Mr Johnston said the DJ then saw Donnelly strike the injured party with a bottle which broke over his head, and that a second witness who walked out of the toilets and into a “commotion” in the hallway also saw the injured party being struck by a woman.

Saying “tempers were frayed in that hallway” where there was “chest-puffing and finger-pointing”, Mr Johnston said it was the Crown’s case that Donnelly was holding a bottle “she had grabbed by the neck ... in an overhand fashion.”

The prosecutor added that as the injured party was seen moving to the side of her as if to avoid her, she then “deliberately moved towards him with her arm raised above her head with a bottle in her hand.

“In a split second, the prosecution say that is when she struck the injured party to the head with the bottle.”

Most of the altercation was captured on CCTV - apart from the strike itself - and it’s the Crown case that seconds after the impact, the injured party is seen on the footage “holding his head as he was injured, and people are coming to his assistance.

“A few seconds after that, the defendant reappears in the footage but the bottle is no longer in her hand. Why? Because she had just broken it over the injured party’s head.”

The wounded man was taken to hospital and received three staples for a 2cm laceration. Although police were not called to the scene, the injured party made a complaint, CCTV from the club was seized and Donnelly was arrested two weeks after the incident.

When she was interviewed about an allegation that she had bottled the man, Donnelly claimed she was acting in self defence and denied she wounded him.

She alleged the injured party had sexually assaulted her in the lounge prior to the incident in the hallway, and that he threatened her in the hall. Donnelly also told police she pushed him away, that she forgot she was holding a bottle and that the bottle must have hit him but didn’t smash.

Mr Johnston said the Crown do not accept this version of events. Instead, he said: “When she broke the bottle over his head, she deliberately struck him - not in self-defence but as an act of aggression.”

At hearing.