Three Newtownabbey men accused of trying to kill a former leading loyalist will have to wait until next year to discover if they are to stand trial.
Aaron Cahoon, 27, David Rush, 34, and David Gibson, 44, were allegedly part of a ten-strong gang who battered Darren Moore with weapons at a pub in Doagh, Co Antrim.
The trio are jointly charged with attempted murder in connection with the attack carried out inside McConnell's Bar in March this year.
Cahoon, of Fairhill Gardens, Rush, from Ballyvesey Green, and Gibson, of Milewater Drive, appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court today for an update on the case.
A prosecution lawyer revealed that phones seized as part of the investigation have now been sent to an external agency for forensic examination.
"The date put forward for (completion of) this is the end of 2017," she added.
A defence lawyer expressed alarm at the potential delay in reaching a preliminary enquiry hearing to establish if the accused have a case to answer.
"It's not even close to that," he insisted.
District Judge Fiona Bagnall agreed that committal proceedings will not be held until next year.
Listing the case for a further review in January, she released all three accused on continuing bail.
Moore, in his forties and formerly from the Mount Vernon area of Belfast, was beaten with baseball bats, hammers and pickaxe handles.
He sustained multiple head fractures, facial lacerations and a puncture wound to his stomach in the attack carried out while he was under threat from loyalists, according to investigating detectives.
Up to ten men were said to have launched the barroom assault before escaping in a number of cars.
Cahoon, Rush and Gibson all deny involvement in the attack.