A 38-year-old former soldier was yesterday acquitted by a jury of fracturing a man's skull outside a Belfast bar.
Michael John Snoddy claimed he acted in self-defence in an altercation, which started in the Thirsty Goat in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter and ended in a man sustaining the injury outside the pub.
Following deliberations which lasted around four hours, the jury returned a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict on a single charge of unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm.
In a trial at Belfast Crown Court which started last week, the jury of five women and seven men heard that Mr Snoddy and the complainant - who are both former soldiers - did not know each other before meeting in the pub in September 2018.
The jury also heard that whilst Mr Snoddy did not deny punching the complainant outside the pub at the corner of Hill Street and Waring Street, he claimed he acted in self-defence.
He claimed he had already been assaulted twice by the other man, and felt threatened and in fear.
The punch thrown by Mr Snoddy caused the complainant to fall back and hit his head on the pavement, which resulted in a fractured skull and a bleed on his brain.
Giving evidence at the trial, the complainant said his hearing and memory have been affected by his head injury.
He said that whilst he has no memory of the night in question, he rejected suggestions he was the aggressor.
When he gave evidence Mr Snoddy, from Shore Crescent in Belfast, said that prior to the altercation, he had attended an Royal Irish Regiment ceremony in Belfast at which it was presented with new colours.
Later that night he and the complainant met in the bar where they struck up a conversation, discussed their careers in the Army and compared military tattoos.
Mr Snoddy said that at some point, the discussion turned heated and he was struck by the complainant.
Both men then left the premises and the altercation continued on the street, which resulted in the complainant being punched once.
Mr Snoddy - who admitted consuming around 10 pints and a couple of Jagerbombs - was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm on the other man on September 23, 2018 and denied the offence, claiming he acted in self-defence as he was struck first.
The jury was told there was no dispute that Mr Snoddy punched the other man - but that they were being asked to consider whether the self-defence Snoddy said he acted under was lawful.
In his evidence, Mr Snoddy said that after assaulting him twice, the complainant advanced towards him in a boxer's stance outside the bar.
Mr Snoddy said the other man was bigger than him, taller than him and looked like he could handle himself.
He claimed that after being struck by the other man, he was "petrified" and in fear of his life.
This fear, he said, caused him to strike out in self-defence.
After administering the punch, Mr Snoddy initially tried to assist the wounded man and then alerted police to the incident, who arrested him at the scene.
Following a three-day trial, the jury spent around four hours deliberating before returning a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict.
After it emerged there were no outstanding matters against Mr Snoddy, he was told by Judge Stephen Fowler QC: "You are free to go."