A prominent Orangeman has been granted bail, after being accused of the attempted murder of two people – a woman and a 16-year-old girl – whom he hit with his car during a riot in Belfast on Monday evening. Police fear “widespread serious disorder” due to his release.
John Aughey (61), from Brae Hill in North Belfast, was released under the conditions of very strict bail restrictions. He will appear in court again in four weeks. The accused’s lawyer said, “This is a matter which is highly regrettable and is profoundly regretted by the defendant.”
Sixteen-year-old Phoebe Clawson was trapped under the vehicle after Monday's incident in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast. Police and nationalist residents of the Crumlin Road neighborhood lifted the car and freed her.
She is now in a stable condition. She suffered a broken collarbone, broken ankle and shattered pelvis.
The Guardian reports that Aughey “car drove into a group of people” in the Ardoyne area.
The incident took place as the Orange Order’s parade from the unionist area of Woodvale escalated into a riot with police in the nationalist Ardoyne area.
A detective sergeant told the court that the accused was a prominent figure who regularly attended the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell.
Outlining police objections to bail, he said there were fears that Aughey’s release could spark “widespread serious disorder.”
Concerns were expressed over potential safety risks for officers, the public, and Aughey himself.
Aughey’s lawyer has questioned the appropriateness of the charges. He claims that the offenses were of a dangerous driving nature and not attempted murder.
He told District Judge Fiona Bagnall it was highly unlikely these offenses will remain as the offenses charges before the court” as his client was initially arrested on a less serious charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily injury.
He also told the court that Aughey was a “law-abiding citizen” whose last appearance in court was over 30 years ago. He also noted his client’s age, ill health and ongoing treatment for cancer, and his wife’s ill health.
Judge Bagnall agreed to release Aughey under strict bail conditions. These include banning the accused from entering north Belfast, preventing him from going within 500 meters of a procession, protest or parade, and banning him from driving.
In court Aughey spoke only to confirm that he understood the charges. He is due to appear in court in four weeks.
In this video at a march for Protestant human rights Aughey speaks (from 10:23 in the clip):