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Former doorman is fined £400 after admitting punch on customer in Belfast pub

By Ashleigh McDonald

A former doorman at a Belfast bar has been fined £400 after pleading guilty to assaulting a customer.

John Latimer was due to stand trial at Belfast Crown Court on a charge of causing actual bodily harm to the customer in the early hours of August 17, 2016 after he initially denied the offence.

However, after a jury was sworn in, Latimer's barrister Barry Gibson asked that his client be rearraigned.

When the charge was put to him again, the 34-year-old replied: "Guilty."

At the time of the assault Latimer, of Cloverhill Drive, Bangor, had been working as a bouncer for 11 years.

Mr Gibson said that as a result of the case, Latimer had since "drawn a line" under that career choice and was starting a new job next week.

Prior to fining Latimer, Judge Patricia Smyth was told by prosecutor Simon Jenkins that the assault occurred at the Empire on Botanic Avenue.

As a customer was making his way from the downstairs bar out to the smoking area, he was told by door staff that he was unable to take his drink outside.

The court heard the customer "was not agreeable to that course of action", and when Latimer took the drink off the customer, he pushed the doorman.

During the short altercation, Latimer punched the customer once in the face, which caused him to fall back and hit his head off steps, which rendered him unconscious.

CCTV footage played to the court showed Latimer offering immediate assistance to the customer, who suffered a swollen lip from the punch and a head wound from the fall. He was treated for his injuries at the scene.

After his arrest Latimer said he was acting in self-defence to prevent himself from being struck.

However, Mr Jenkins told the court that by pleading guilty, Latimer had accepted the force he used "went a little too far".

Mr Gibson said his client was a hard-working father-of-three whose wife was expecting their fourth child this week.

The barrister said his former job as a doorman meant "dealing with people who have taken too much alcohol", which resulted in incidents such as this, where "something happens very quickly... which has consequences for the door staff".

Mr Gibson also told Judge Smyth that two independent witnesses saw a "drunk male swinging" at a bouncer.

Branding the job undertaken by door staff as one that bears great responsibility, the judge said that while the incident marked the "first time anything like this occurred" in Latimer's 11 years as a doorman, it was still a serious offence.

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