Man given 16-year jail term for driving car into crowd outside Great Eastern Bar in east Belfast
A taxi driver who drove a car into a crowd of people standing outside an east Belfast pub has been handed a 16-year prison sentence.
Michael Porter (34) was found guilty by a jury last December of attempting to murder Paul Thompson and Daniel Martin in the early hours of December 19, 2011.
One eyewitness told the court the car "knocked people over like skittles."
Originally from north Belfast, Porter, whose address was given as Glen Court in Newtownards, was found not guilty of attempting to murder a third man, Christopher McKay, but guilty of causing him grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving.
Despite the findings of the jury, Porter continues to deny he was behind the wheel of the car which ploughed into a group of revellers.
Passing sentence, Judge Corinne Philpott told Porter: "You took a car and you used it as a weapon and it is just as lethal as a knife or gun, with the added advantage that you were able to get away."
The judge said that as he had been deemed a danger to the public, she had to sentence him for the protection of the public. After he has served eight years of his sentence, it will be up to the Parole Board whether or not he is illegible for release. Upon his release, Porter will spend a further two years on licence.
Judge Philpott said: "If you don't show that you have changed, you will remain in custody for 16 years, and you will be 50 then."
During a week-long trial at Belfast Crown Court, the jury was told Porter, his brother and his friend Paul Thompson – one of the men who was seriously injured in the incident – had been drinking in a city centre bar before Porter drove them to the Great Eastern Bar in east Belfast in his ex-partner's Passat.
During their time in the pub, the trio felt they were being stared at and after words were exchanged with revellers, they left.
Mr Thompson was assaulted and knocked unconscious in the street and moments later the Passat, which was driven to the area by Porter, was seen to exit Hornby Street and drive right into a crowd standing outside the pub.
Porter denied that he was the driver, saying that when he saw his friend being attacked outside the pub, he fled the scene and stayed at a friend's house.
However, his version of events was rejected by the jury.