Nightclub boss accused of assaulting customers was 'grabbed by throat and punched in face' - court hears
A nightclub boss accused of assaulting two customers had been grabbed by the throat and punched in the face, a court heard today.
Counsel for Mark McCourt insisted he was subjected to aggression before any attempt to push away one of the men outside Thompsons Garage in central Belfast.
Mr McCourt, of Pattersons Place in the city, denies charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two counts of common assault.
The 35-year-old part-owner of one of Northern Ireland's most high-profile nightclubs was among three men due to go on trial at Belfast Magistrates' Court.
But a co-accused, Joseph Doyle, 28, from Cliftonville Road in the city, entered a guilty plea to a single charge of common assault before the hearing began.
The third defendant, 50-year-old Seamus Deeds of Horn Drive in Belfast, is contesting one count of common assault.
Charges were brought over an incident at the venue early on March 12, 2015.
Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes was told alleged victims Aaron Quinn and Jonathan Russell had been drinking in another bar before arriving at the club.
They were said to have met with Mr McCourt and received free drinks following a complaint about not getting served.
Mr Quinn claimed he became involved in a brief scuffle with the owner which he described as "friendly banter".
He and his friend Mr Russell then left the premises along with Mr McCourt and a number of bouncers.
The alleged assaults took place in an outside alleyway.
With CCTV footage of both incidents shown during the hearing, the two friends claimed door staff forced them to the ground and either punched or kicked them.
But Martin Morgan, representing Mr McCourt, put it to Mr Quinn that he had grabbed his client by the throat and slapped him on the head during their encounter inside the club.
He argued that the complainant then lunged again towards the defendant outside the venue.
The barrister contended that Mr McCourt pushed Mr Quinn away due to his aggression.
"Your response to him pushing you, and that is the common assault allegation, is to grab him and punch him in the face," Mr Morgan said.
At one point Judge Holmes, who studied the CCTV footage, commented that he was in no doubt the defendant's alleged push came after "clearly offensive" actions by Mr Quinn.
Mr Russell gave an account of getting kicked and punched about the face and body, claiming up to ten men were involved.
He descried being put in a head lock, struggling to breathe, and being told they were going to "fix" him.
"I was lying straight down, flat on the ground on my stomach and guys were sitting on top of my legs and back," he told the court.
Under cross-examination he was unable to remember some of the movements depicted in the CCTV footage and photographic stills.
Mr Morgan described his lack of recall as "frightening".
The barrister continued: "The reason you can't remember is you were just absolutely plastered."
Counsel for Mr Deeds put it to Mr Russell that the CCTV recordings showed him punching one of the doormen approximately five times.
The witness again confirmed he could not recall those alleged actions.
With evidence still to come from a third alleged victim, Judge Holmes adjourned the contest to a later stage.
He cautioned that it could be months before another suitable date is available