Jury asked to 'imagine the level of fear' John Aughey faced after his car hit crowd
A jury presiding in the case of a Belfast Orangemen accused of injuring residents and police after his car struck a crowd of people at an interface were asked todayto closely examine all the evidence in the case ahead of reaching their verdict.
And while the Crown said much of John Aughey's evidence was "wrong and mistaken", the defence told the jury members to put themselves in his place, and asked "what would you have done?"
As the trial at Belfast Crown Court reached its conclusion, barristers for both the Crown and defence made their final submissions ahead of the jury's deliberations.
Aughey has been charged with, and denies, six offences arising from an incident which ocurred on the Upper Crumlin Road, close to the Ardoyne shop fronts, on the evening of July 13, 2015. The most serious charge he faces is causing grievous bodily injury to a teenage girl, who was struck by Aughey's Nissan Pulsar and ended up trapped under the wheels of the vehicle.
The teenager sustained fractures to her pelvis, ankle and collarbone in the incident.
The 63-year old accused, from Brae Hilk Park, has also been charged with, and denies, injuring others including a community worker as well as several police officers.
Tensions at the interface were heightened on the evening in question after a Parade Commission's determination banned an Orange lodge and flute band from returning past the nationalist Ardoyne shop fronts area.
As Aughey sat in traffic at a pedestrian crossing, he tried to make a u-turn in the road, which resulted in a collision with the crowd and the subsequent injuries.
He claimed trying to turn in the road and get back to police lines was his only option, that he was subject to verbal abuse and that he feared for his life, believing his fate would be the same as the two corporals. He also claimed he felt he had enough room to perform the u-turn, and made the case it was never his intention to hurt anyone.
During today's submissions, both the Crown and defence made their respective cases to the jury.
Neil Connor QC, representing the Crown, told the jury that after watching CCTV footage of the incident, and hearing evidence from a host of witnesses, they should be in no doubt of Aughey's guilt.
Saying there was "no issue" that Aughey drove his car into a crowd and struck several people, Mr Connor said the Orangeman's driving on the evening in question "fell far below the standard of a careful and competent driver."
Mr Connor said Aughey should have been aware that given the amount of space to complete the u-turn, this manoeuvre would have presented a "real risk to people present in the crowd."
The Crown barrister said that on the evening, Aughey was "wrong and mistaken" about several things, including the route he took home, the presence of police officers and the amount of missiles that hit his car.
Mr Connor said the defendant was also wrong about claims his window was down, about being hemmed in as he sat in traffic and about his car being kicked by more than one person.
He told the jury: "I am not trying to condone or downplay what happened to this man's car. There is no doubt he realised he was in a bit of a pickle, and it wouldn't have been pleasant to be sitting in that car.
"The wing mirror being kicked, the bottle thrown at the car - that shouldn't have happened - but we say he was wrong and tried to exaggerate what happened to the car."
As well as being wrong about how many times the car was hit, Mr Connor said Aughey "invented" claims that people standing to the left of the car ran at the vehicle.
Also wrong, said the Crown, was Aughey's suggested that he was not aware he had hit anyone until told so by police.
During the defence submissions, Greg Berry QC spoke of hindsight and said this was something Aughey did not have the luxury of during the incident.
Describing Aughey's situation as he sat in traffic as "tense, hostile, frightening and terrifying", Mr Berry reiterated his client's claim that he tried to perform the u-turn to save his life.
Mr Berry said in that moment, as Aughey's car was coming under attack, his client felt "trapped" and "hemmed in" by other traffic on the road.
Saying a police officer gave evidence during the trial and described the crowd as "hostile", Mr Berry spoke of the level of tension in the area and said Aughey performed the u-turn "because he feared for his life."
Whilst addressing the jury, Mr Berry pointed at Aughey and said: "would you be frightened? He was. He was terrfied. What would you do?"
The defence barrister continued: "He didn't know he had hit anybody, he didn't realise police were shouting at him to stop, because he was in a blind panic. Can you imagine the level of fear that this man faced?
"What would you do in that car? You are in fear, you are on your own. When you think about it, would you not turn and get away if you thought your life was in danger?"
"Did he do what he did because of fear and panic that he would be killed or seriously injured? We say the answer to that is a resounding yes.