Belfast Telegraph

Orangeman John Aughey found guilty of dangerous driving at Ardoyne interface where he drove over teen girl

By Mickey Donnelly

An Orangeman showed no emotion on Thursday as he was convicted of driving over a teenage girl, trapping her under his Nissan car after 'ploughing' into a crowd of protesting nationalists over a banned loyalist parade at a contentious north Belfast interface two years ago.

It took the Belfast Crown Court jury of eight women and four men almost three hours, during two days of deliberation, to reach their majority verdicts and convict 63-year-old John Alexander Aughey of the charges arising from the collision close to the Ardoyne shops on July 13, 2015.

Twice during their deliberations on Thursday the jury informed the court they could not reach unanimous verdicts, before delivering their majority 11 to one guilty verdicts on each of the six charges which Aughey from Brae Hill Park, had denied. 

Among those charges, and the most serious, was causing grievous bodily harm to a then 16-year-old girl Phoebe Clawson by dangerously driving his car on Belfast's Crumlin Road.  She was trapped under the wheels of his red Nissan Pulsar, fracturing to her pelvis, ankle and collarbone.

Jurors, some of whom gasped on being shown a video of the moment she was flung onto the bonnet, and under the car, heard she spent two weeks in hospital after undergoing a five-hour emergency operation on her "shattered pelvis".

However, before striking her, Aughey had also stuck and injured a community representative and two other civilians, before also injuring two police officers.

Police who had run forward to stop Aughey's car, described seeing young Phoebe being struck in the back by the bonnet of the car before disappearing under the car's front wheels which "rose up" as it did so.

During his nine day trial over three weeks, Aughey claimed he was driving home after marching earlier that day and had made his "U-Turn" manoeuvre taking him into the crowd, "in a blind panic", after believing his car had come under attack.

He maintained he had not drove deliberately at the crowd, making the case that as he sat in traffic he became aware of abuse and shouting coming from the protestors.

He said that after missiles hit his car and his wing mirror was kicked, in a "blind panic" he tried to perform a u-turn to get back down the road "to the safety" of police lines.

When asked why he didn't just get out of the car and walk a matter of yards to a police Land Rover, Aughey said: "If I had got out of the car it would have been tantamount of committing suicide."

Claiming he heard someone shout 'get him, don't let the B get away,'  he said that "scared me even more because I realised then how vulnerable I was to attack. To me that was chilling and knocked me into a blind panic.

"I thought the crown would get me and drag me out of the car or damage me while I was sitting in the car."

However, these claims were 'rubbished' by prosecution barrister Neil Connor QC, who accused him of not only lying to police two years ago, but also of lying to the court.

Mr Connor said the issue was a simple one, in which Aughey had driven his car in a manner which  was dangerous and which fell far short of what would have been expected from a competent and careful driver.

Following their verdicts trial Judge Patricia Smyth praised the jury for dealing with what she described as "probably being one of the most difficult trials that any jury in Northern Ireland has been asked to decide upon".

Thanking them for their time and deliberation without "complaint", she excused them from further jury service for life if they wanted.

Then freeing Aughey on continuing bail until after the summer recess in August, Judge Smyth told him that should not be taken "as an indication of the sentence the court will pass in due course".

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