Friend of Robert McCartney gets suspended sentence

Brendan Devine at the murder trial of his friend Robert McCartney. Pic Colm Lenaghan
Brendan Devine at the murder trial of his friend Robert McCartney. Pic Colm Lenaghan

A Belfast man who was diagnosed with PTSD after his friend was murdered was handed a suspended sentence after appearing in court on Tuesday.

Brendan Devine, from Mayfield Village in Newtownabbey, admitted three charges arising from a drunken incident in an off licence earlier this year.

Belfast Crown Court heard the 43-year old "suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" as the result of a "very serious incident in 2005" when his friend Robert McCartney was stabbed and killed.

The murder of Mr McCartney led to a crisis in Northern Ireland politics after the IRA was accused of covering up the murder.

The court heard that Devine has been sober for three months and is currently attending both AA and Narcotics Anonymous.

A prosecutor told Judge David McFarland that on the evening of February 10 this year, Devine entered the off sales and tried to buy a box of beer. Due to Devine's drunken state, a member of staff refused to serve him - prompting Devine to become "hostile" and push the employee.

He then walked out of the premises with the box of beer and got into a taxi. Police were called and arrived at the scene around the same time Devine went back into the off licence.

In full view of police, Devine then lifted another box of beer, took a tin from a box, opened it and drank some of the contents.

He was arrested, and whilst in custody he was found to be in possession of what police believe was a small amount of cannabis. However, when officers were not looking, Devine lifted the cannabis off the table and hid it in his pocket.

A prosecutor said this was only discovered when CCTV was viewed at a later stage.

Devine admitted three charges - the theft of the beer, assaulting an employee by pushing him and obstructing police by removing the suspected cannabis.

Defence barrister Joe Brolly revealed Devine has had a "tumultuous life" which included the murder of his friend in 2005.

Mr Brolly said the incident at the off licence occurred when Devine was "very intoxicated ... there was no harm meant to anyone", adding his client has "been dry for 12 weeks now."

Judge McFarland handed Devine a six-month sentence, which was suspended for two years.