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Newry man Cooney avoids jail over glass attack at exclusive Belfast restaurant

By John Cassidy

A Co Down father-of-three who threw a glass at a man during a birthday party at an exclusive Belfast restaurant narrowly avoided prison.

Shane Cooney, of Dunbrae in Newry, was told by a judge had it not been for his guilty plea to the wounding charge, his clear record and his good work ethic he would have jailed him for 18 months for what he described as a "reprehensible'' incident.

Instead, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC suspended the prison term for a year, telling the 34-year-old: "I trust this unfortunate incident can now be put to rest.''

Belfast Crown Court heard on Friday that seven members of the PSNI's Tactical Support Group (TSG) were called to attend a  "commotion'' at the Ivory Restaurant in Belfast's Victoria Square just after midnight on Sunday, October 19, 2014.

The court was told that a bus load of 50 people arrived at the plush restaurant on Saturday, October 18, for a 30th birthday party and they had been drinking from 6pm on the bus.

Prosecution counsel Gareth Purvis said the victim of the attack, Niall Ryan, was related to the party host and both he and Cooney knew of each other.

He told the court that as Mr Ryan was returning from the bar with drinks there was a "coming together'' between him and Cooney.

He said Cooney then lifted a glass and threw it at Mr Ryan from a distance of three feet, striking him around the left eye.

A witness told police he saw Cooney being pulled away towards the lift by his father-in-law and a "commotion'' started in the restaurant which led to police TSG units being deployed.

The victim was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he needed seven stitches to lacerations above and below his left eye.

Mr Purvis said the scars have now "well healed'' and are only noticeable at a "conversational distance''.

Defence counsel Michael Tierney described Cooney as a "hard-working family man who was truly remorseful'' for his behaviour.

"The court may ask why did this happen or how did this happen? The truth is there is no good reason. He doesn't normally drink and on this occasion everybody was drinking and nobody really remembers what happened.

"This was a complete aberration on his part and he has asked me to apologise to this court,'' added Mr Tierney.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said the custody threshold in the case had been met he but had decided that Cooney, who he said had "drunk to excess'' on the night in question,  did not pose a danger to the public.

The judge said it was a "serious incident but could have been much more serious'' had the glass struck the victim's left eye.

Cooney pleaded guilty to the wounding charge on the morning of his trial last month and Judge Miller said had he been found guilty after a contest he would have jailed him for two years.

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