Part­ner of coun­cil chief’s sis­ter breached or­der af­ter fam­ily’s fall­out with fa­ther

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY STAFF RE­PORTER

A DUN­GAN­NON man who at­tacked the el­derly fa­ther of Mid and East Antrim Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Anne Don­aghy in a row over the sign­ing over of prop­erty has fi­nally ac­cepted he “stupidly” breached a re­strain­ing or­der ban­ning con­tact with the vic­tim.

An­thony James ‘Tony’ McBride (53) of Bally­beg Road was placed un­der the or­der ban­ning any con­tact with Johnny Fee fol­low­ing con­vic­tions for as­sault and threat­en­ing to kill.

That par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent oc­curred on Fe­bru­ary 13, 2017, when McBride punched the vic­tim in the face, trailed him across the ground by his hair, and threat­ened to “put a bul­let be­hind (his) ear”.

McBride was the part­ner of Mr Fee’s late daugh­ter Geral­dine, who passed away last year.

He was de­scribed by the vic­tim as the “ag­gres­sor” sent by some fam­ily mem­bers to force him to sign over his prop­erty.

McBride re­jected the al­lega- tions, but was con­victed and sen­tenced to four months im­pris­on­ment, sus­pended for two years, with the re­strain­ing or­der.

The judge de­scribed the at­tack as “de­grad­ing and hu­mil­i­at­ing”.

An ap­peal was lodged, but while this was pend­ing and within a mat­ter of weeks, McBride was en­gaged in an­other en­counter with Mr Fee on De­cem­ber 2 2017, breach­ing the or­der.

The ap­peal on the orig­i­nal charges was heard in Jan­uary, at which Ms Don­aghy at­tended in sup­port of McBride.

She ul­ti­mately did not give ev­i­dence, as the Press chal­lenged a pre­vi­ously in­cor­rectly im­posed re­port­ing re­stric­tion ban­ning her be­ing named in court.

Fur­ther at­tempts to have this re­in­stated were re­jected.

The ap­peal, which was un­suc­cess­ful, was not told McBride breached the or­der within weeks.

He later con­tested the breach in which the court, as be­fore, heard of his em­broil­ment in the on­go­ing fam­ily dis­pute. Mr Fee ex­plained he and a friend pulled into a petrol sta­tion to check their ve­hi­cle.

While work­ing at the en­gine, McBride ap­peared along­side. He did not speak to Mr Fee but ad­dressed his friend say­ing: “Are you as big a man now? All you are is an a**-licker.”

McBride then pointed di­rectly at Mr Fee and made “dis­gust­ing al­le­ga­tions”.

Mr Fee said: “He (McBride) and me were only out of court.

“My daugh­ter Anne and my son Michael are all cam­paign­ing to take my place off me... I have had noth­ing only grief and hard­ship for the last three years.

“He was put up as an ag­gres­sor by Anne and Michael to get me to sign over my prop­erty.”

McBride de­nied the in­ci­dent but was found guilty. He was jailed for two months and the ex­ist­ing sus­pended term ac­ti­vated, mak­ing a to­tal of six months.

At this point Ms Don­aghy is­sued le­gal let­ters to some Press warn­ing them against print­ing any­thing about her, re­fer­ring to “re­port­ing re­stric­tions”, which had in fact been re­scinded.

The Press chal­lenged this, high­light­ing the prin­ci­ples of open jus­tice and rights to re­port court pro­ceed­ings.

Within 24 hours Ms Don­aghy’s so­lic­i­tor ad­vised she had since “ter­mi­nated” her en­gage­ment.

McBride ap­pealed the or­der breach sen­tence at Dun­gan­non County Court, where a de­fence lawyer ex­plained his client “stupidly” en­coun­tered Mr Fee in the garage fore­court.

There had been some con­fu­sion over the re­strain­ing or­der be­ing ac­tive while the orig­i­nal case was await­ing ap­peal.

Judge Stephen Fowler QC said he was pre­pared to de­fer sen­tenc­ing for six months.

Re­leas­ing McBride on ex­ist­ing bail, he sternly warned: “If there is any rep­e­ti­tion of in­ci­dents, this case is to be im­me­di­ately brought back to me.”

The case will re­turn to court in May 2019.

❝ He was put up as an ag­gres­sor to get me to hand over my prop­erty

Mid and East Antrim Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Anne Don­aghy

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