Northern Ireland

Belfast teacher cleared of biting pub doorman's finger

A Belfast grammar school teacher has been cleared in court of biting off part of a pub doorman's finger during a brawl outside a west Belfast bar.

It took the Belfast Crown Court jury of nine men and three women less than an hour to reach a verdict.

They unanimously acquitted Tony Austin, 45, of causing the doorman grievous bodily harm.

Mr Austin, of Garnock Hill, had denied attacking Patrick McDonnell at the Glen Road, west Belfast on 22 July, 2007.

Following his acquittal on Wednesday, Mr Austin thanked the jury for their "not guilty" verdict.

He said it showed they had accepted he was never involved in any attack on the doorman outside a bar.

Mr McDonnell had claimed that Mr Austin, whom he'd known for 15 years after coaching him in Gaelic Atheletic games, had been facing him when he "snapped'" at him up to three times before one of the bites took off the top part of his little finger of his left hand.

The bouncer had also claimed that he knew "straight away" he had been injured as the pain was "excruciating".

However, during the trial it emerged that Mr McDonnell had allegedly told a different story in which he claimed initially he "didn't even feel it".

After the court case Mr Austin's solicitor, Ciaran Shiels, made a statement on behalf of his client.

"This morning's decision represents a complete vindication of Mr Austin's innocence and reputation and furthermore a vindication of the trial Judge's ruling, which was subsequently appealed by the Public Prosecution Service, that there was no case to answer against the Defendant," Mr Shiels said.

"This prosecution should have been withdrawn against the Defendant over a year ago when it emerged that the bouncer had provided seriously inconsistent accounts in relation to the incident to an Accident & Emergency Doctor, the PSNI, and two respected journalists," he added.

"It is the duty of the prosecution to put before the court witnesses of truth and reliability. As the jury's verdict confirms, they did not do so in this case."

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