Northern Ireland news

Man jailed again months after finishing 22-years term for shocking sectarian attack

Aaron White (46) was jailed for 22 years in 2007 for a shocking sectarian attack on a Catholic man in Ballymena

A Co Antrim man once jailed for 22 years for a vicious sectarian attack has been sentenced to nine months behind bars for a street fight over a spilled pint.

However, 46-year-old Aaron White is expected to be free again soon as he has already spent a year on remand waiting for his case to be dealt with.

In October 2003, White, his brother Neil (40) and another man attacked Michael Liam Reid with a kitchen knife, saucepan and telephone cable in a house at Patrick Place, Ballymena.

The Catholic man described how he played dead to stop the attack and listened as Aaron White, originally from the Harryville area of Ballymena, discussed getting a saw to cut up his body for disposal.

He was cut 16 times, beaten, kicked and subjected to an attempted strangulation and told the court that he was told: "We are going to kill you, you fenian b*****d - you are going to die."

Mr Justice Gillen said it "stands out as one of the most viciously sectarian and unprovoked attacks that the court has had the misfortune to encounter in recent years".

Neil White served a 16-year jail term for his role in the murder bid, while the third man has never been caught.

Antrim Crown Court heard yesterday that White, from Lettercreeve in Ballymena, was only out of prison for six months when he was in the Moat Bar on February 24 last year.

Prosecuting barrister Suzanne Gallagher said Thomas McIlhagga had set a pint of beer on a table when “the defendant walked by him and knocked it over,” leading to an argument between them.

Mr McIlhagga spent the rest of the evening playing pool and when he left after last orders, at around 12.45am, he spotted White standing close to a former ice cream factory.

“He asked him ‘What the f*** are you waiting for’,” said Ms Gallagher, and White told him “You” before the pair started to fight.

It was during the struggle that White caused Mr McIlhagga “to fall to the ground,” cutting his hand on broken glass.

He ran from the scene with White “shouting verbal abuse at him".

He later pleaded guilty to an offence of wounding Mr McIlhagga.

Ms Gallagher said it was accepted he was not responsible for the glass being there but by causing him to fall, he was responsible for the cut which caused damage to ligaments and nerve endings.

Both men “had consumed significant amounts of alcohol.”

Describing the fight as “something of a wrestling match,” defence QC Alan Kane submitted that had it not been for the broken glass on the ground, the case would most likely have been dealt with in the lower courts and that if Mr McIlhagga had “walked on” instead of crossing the road to speak to White, “it may not have resulted in what took place”.

He also told the court that while in prison for half of the 22-year sentence imposed in 2007, White had used that time to obtain numerous qualifications.

Judge Desmond Marrinan said it was “concerning” that White had re-offended just six months after his release from his “rather chilling” attempted murder sentence.

He also pointed to the fact that after the initial verbal confrontation in the bar, “you chose to wait for him outside”.

“I trust Mr White that you will be careful in future because any more offending could lead to a much more significant sentence,” he said.

White will also serve nine months on licence on his release.

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