Belfast Telegraph

New Lodge bonfire: High Court told footage of alleged attack on teenager posted online

Crowds watch as a bonfire is lit in the New Lodge area of Belfast to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the controversial policy of internment without trial.
Crowds watch as a bonfire is lit in the New Lodge area of Belfast to mark the anniversary of the introduction of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

By Alan Erwin

Footage of a teenager being stabbed and bitten at a controversial north Belfast bonfire was posted on social media, the High Court heard on Tuesday.

Prosecutors claimed last month's stabbing, which left the victim with a collapsed lung, appeared on Facebook after being recorded by a bystander.

As a judge granted bail to one of two men accused of the attack in the New Lodge estate, he expressed shock that the material featured online.

Mr Justice McAlinden said: "It's an appalling indictment of our society when such behaviour not only occurs, but is widely disseminated for the purpose of some form of entertainment value."

Caolan Donnelly, 21, of Cliftonville Drive in the city, denies two counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and two counts of possessing an offensive weapon with intent.

The charges relate to knife attacks on an uncle and nephew in the early hours of August 9, as large crowds gathered to watch an anti-internment bonfire.

Disorder had broken out the day before, leading to police abandoning an operation in the area.

The older alleged victim claimed he was attacked over a year-old dispute, the court heard.

He sustained superficial stab wounds to his arm and hip.

Police were then informed his 18-year-old nephew had been taken to hospital for treatment to a collapsed lung and an injury to his jaw.

Prosecution counsel Laura Ievers submitted: "He said he had been at the bonfire with family members when he saw his uncle arguing with a number of unknown males.

"He tried to intervene and one of the males pulled him to the ground, biting him on the face.

"On the ground other males surrounded him and began kicking him."

It was subsequently established that he had been stabbed in the back.

"A video recording of the incident confirms what was said by (the alleged victim)," Mrs Ievers said.

"It was on social media and appears to have been (taken) by a bystander."

She claimed clothing links Donnelly to the attack carried out by a man wearing a dark Puffa-style jacket. 

But during exchanges the judge pointed to apparent uncertainty over who actually wielded the knife.

Defence barrister Sean Devine insisted nothing has been produced to link Donnelly to the stabbing.

"In the absence of any identification evidence it's not open to the authorities, when they see the tide is turning against them, to latch onto a belief or assertion that my client is the person in the footage," he argued.

Granting bail, Mr Justice McAlinden said there was nothing to connect the defendant with direct involvement in the attack at this stage.

He ordered Donnelly to live under curfew at an address in west Belfast, and banned him from entering the north of the city.

Stressing that he will review his decision in six weeks to check if any further evidence has emerged, the judge added: "The last thing that should be happening in our society is that a person wielding a knife should be at liberty."

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