Ruthless loyalist assassin, Torrens Knight, jailed for beating sisters
One of Northern Ireland's most ruthless loyalist paramilitary assassins, who was freed from jail under the terms of the Good Friday peace agreement, was sentenced to four months yesterday for beating up two sisters.
Torrens Knight, 40, a feared gunman who was involved in an attack on a pub at Halloween 1993 which left eight customers dead, was sent back to prison five weeks ago after being convicted of the assault.
Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward ruled he was in breach of his release conditions.
Yesterday at Antrim Magistrates' Court he was jailed for four months after what was described as a nasty and vicious attack on the two women when he confronted them in a bar in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, in March.
Rosemary Sutherland and her sister Caroline Nicholl were standing at the bar when they were approached by Knight.
The court heard Ms Nicholl was punched in the face, knocked to the ground and then kicked after Knight told her they had "some unfinished business to sort out".
Ms Sutherland then tried to push Knight away but she too was punched in the face. Knight later claimed that he acted in self-defence.
But District Judge Austin Kennedy refused to believe him and told Knight that he had acted as a bully and left the two women injured and traumatised.
They had been in the bar minding their own business when they were approached by Knight as there had been some bad feeling between him and their family.
The District Judge told Knight: "The injuries sustained were consistent with a vicious attack on the two women and of particular concern in this case is that you kicked Ms Nicholl while she was on the ground, prone and unable to defend herself.
"People who do that can expect no mercy or sympathy from these courts. You acted as a bully when you approached these sisters. You lost control and lashed out."
Knight, of Ashdale, Coleraine, with his cropped fair hair and wearing a bright red fleece jacket over a grey and yellow T-shirt, did not speak throughout the hearing.
Knight, a gunman with the loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters, has been serving life sentences for 12 murders.
Eight of his victims were gunned down when killers opened fire on the Rising Sun bar, in the village of Greysteel, near Londonderry, at Halloween 1993.
One the masked gunmen shouted "trick or treat" before the killers sprayed the main lounge.
That same year Knight was part of a gang which murdered four Catholic builders in the seaside town of Castlerock.
He was sentenced in February 1995, but under the terms of the Good Friday agreement he was released in July 2000.
He stayed out of trouble until May last year when he attacked the two women in the Coleraine bar.
After his conviction at the end of last October, Mr Woodward ruled that his actions represented a breach of his release licence and ordered that he be rearrested and brought back to Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, County Antrim.
The Life Sentence Review Commissioners will now examine the case to decide if the suspension of the licence was justified and if Knight should serve out the remainder of his murder sentences.
But after the judge ruled he should serve four months in prison for the two assaults and disorderly behaviour, Knight's lawyer Francis Rafferty confirmed that his client would be appealing against the convictions and he made an immediate application for bail.
Before his client was sentenced yesterday, Mr Rafferty said Knight had been assessed by Probation Board experts, who said the likelihood of him reoffending was low because of the gap in his criminal record and that he had been on licence.
His overall attitude to his past was that he was endeavouring to lead a responsible lifestyle.
Crown lawyer Sheena Mahaffey told the court they were objecting to bail on the grounds that Knight might interfere with witnesses or reoffend.
Mr Rafferty said his application for bail was a separate issue and there was nothing to suggest that his client would be directly or indirectly connected to the injured parties.
The court heard that one of the women lived a mile away from Knight's home and the other seven miles away.
District Judge Mr Kennedy granted bail of £500 providing that Knight resides at home, reports twice weekly to police and does not come into any direct contact with any of the witnesses.
But after yesterday's hearing he was driven back to prison because his early release still remains suspended by the Northern Ireland Office.
The case is to be mentioned again next Tuesday at a County Court sitting in Coleraine.