Loyalist thug William 'Mo' Courtney avoids prison term over death threat
A top loyalist convicted of threatening to kill high-profile victims' campaigner Raymond McCord has been given a three-month suspended jail sentence.
William 'Mo' Courtney was told he would have gone straight to prison if the offence had been committed after he was dealt with for a separate assault.
Fifty-year-old Courtney denied any encounter with Mr McCord at a traffic junction in Belfast last December.
The victim has been an outspoken critic of loyalist terror groupings ever since the paramilitary murder of his son Raymond jnr in 1997.
At the time of the incident he was travelling in a car with Tracey Coulter, whose father Jackie was killed during a loyalist feud in 2000.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard that as their vehicle stopped at lights in the Peters Hill area, Courtney walked past, recognised the pair and made rude gestures.
It was alleged that Mr McCord then got out of the car and challenged the defendant.
According to the prosecution, Courtney replied: "Beat you? I will f****** kill you. Come on up the road."
Weeks earlier the defendant, of Fernhill Heights, Belfast, had been found guilty of head-butting Ms Coulter during a confrontation over drugs.
However, a four-month suspended prison sentence for that assault was only imposed after the confrontation at the traffic lights.
Despite his denials, Courtney was found guilty of threatening to kill Mr McCord.
He was acquitted on a second charge of harassing Ms Coulter.
During a sentencing hearing yesterday, defence barrister Sean Mullen insisted it had been a chance encounter.
"At its height it was a verbal exchange and nothing has happened since," Mr Mullen told the court.
Mr Mullen acknowledged his client's past criminal record but argued that there were significant gaps in offending by a man who now carries out work in his local community.
The lawyer added: "Mr Courtney has nothing else pending and he's deemed not to pose a significant risk of serious harm by probation.
"He is, to all intents and purposes, a family man."
District Judge Fiona Bagnall accepted the threats were nothing more than part of a verbal altercation.
Imposing a three-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, she said: "He is not in breach of the (previous) suspended sentence otherwise he would be in immediate custody."
Courtney showed no emotion as he left the dock and exited the courtroom along with two friends.