Riot car murder bid charge Orangeman expresses 'profound regret'
A prominent Orangeman accused of the attempted murder of two pedestrians knocked down by a car during a Belfast riot "profoundly regrets" what happened, a court has been told.
John Aughey, 61, was granted bail on strict conditions after appearing in court accused of trying to kill Phoebe Clawson and Roisin McGlone in the nationalist Ardoyne area in the midst of disturbances on Monday night.
After the collision, Miss Clawson, 16, was trapped under Aughey's vehicle and police and residents had to lift and flip it off her.
She is in a stable condition in hospital having suffered multiple broken bones. Ms McGlone's injuries were not as serious.
The incident on the Crumlin Road happened as loyalists rioted in the nearby unionist Woodvale area after police prevented an Orange parade from proceeding along a contested stretch of the road beside the Ardoyne.
Aughey's vehicle collided with nationalists assembled at Ardoyne near to the volatile sectarian interface.
During this morning's remand hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court, the accused's solicitor said his client had repeatedly expressed regret about the incident during police interview.
"This is a matter which is highly regrettable and is profoundly regretted by the defendant," he said.
But the lawyer questioned the appropriateness of the charges.
He claimed the alleged offences were not of the gravity of attempted murder and could be better characterised as allegations of dangerous driving.
The court heard that Aughey, of Brae Hill Park in north Belfast, was active in the long-running protest against a ban on Orangemen parading past Ardoyne at the end of July 12 loyal order commemorations.
A police officer referred to a number of media reports of interviews and statements given by Aughey regarding the vexed dispute centring on the Ardoyne/Woodvale interface at Twaddell Avenue.
"This man is committed to pursuing protests at Twaddell," the officer told district judge Fiona Bagnall.
He claimed the accused was engaged in "provocative conduct" minutes before the collision, with eyewitnesses reporting he was "verbally abusing nationalist residents through the window of his own car".
Moustachioed Aughey, dressed in a black and grey polo shirt, watched proceedings from a seated position in the dock.
He spoke only briefly at the start of the hearing to confirm he understood the charges facing him.
Around a dozen relatives and supporters looked on from the public gallery amid a visible police presence in court.
The officer, who said he could connect Aughey to the charges, initially opposed a defence bail application over concerns the accused could commit further offences.
He claimed if Aughey was released it could prompt "widespread and serious disorder" in north Belfast.
The officer said there would be a risk to the public and also a risk to the accused himself.
But Aughey's lawyer insisted there was no potential of committing offences.
He highlighted his medical problems, noting he had endured three bouts of cancer and was still on drugs for the condition.
The solicitor said the accused was also the primary carer for his wife, who had to use a walking frame due to severe arthritis.
"This is not a man who is going to go out and commit further offences," he said.
"He is a member of the Orange Order, that's not something he shies away from or denies.
"But he stays on the right side of the law."
Judge Bagnall asked the officer if he would be content with bail if tight conditions were applied.
The policeman said he would.
Granting bail at £500, the judge prohibited Aughey from entering north Belfast, other than for medical appointments, and prevented him being within 500 metres of a parade, procession or protest.
He is due to appear in court again in four weeks.