A grieving family watched in court as a Co Antrim bar owner and former Derry Gaelic team captain was charged with manslaughter of a customer.
Relatives of Aaron Law filled the public gallery at Ballymena Magistrates Court today as 41-year-old Fergal Gerard Doherty, who appeared in court via video link from police custody, was charged with manslaughter on Sunday.
While Doherty of Main Street in Portglenone confirmed he understood the only charge against him, Detective Sergeant Brannigan said he believed he could link the defendant to the charge.
Mr Law – 34-year-old father of two – who was from Portglenone, was found lying unconscious outside the bar around 1.10am on Sunday.
Mr Law suffered a head injury and was taken to hospital but later tragically died.
During a contested bail application, the court overheard Mr Law being at a bachelorette party in the bar when a bouncer “escorted” him from the premises.
Outside, the victim had a “verbal altercation” with the bouncer and, according to defender Joe Brolly, “Mr Law punched Doherty when he tried to intervene, but the retired Gaelic footballer retaliated and punched the victim once.
DS Brannigan agreed with counsel’s suggestions that, according to the defendant, two witness statements and pathological evidence, Doherty’s punch caused Mr. Law to fall and hit his head on the pavement.
However, the detective added that Mr Law, who was lying unconscious in the middle of the street, the bouncer and Doherty “left him and returned to the bar”.
The court heard he was left for up to 15 minutes and at one point a car had to brake and drive around him before parking further down the street.
10 to 15 minutes after the initial incident, the porter and Doherty went back outside and pulled Mr Law off the pavement, but medical attention was still not sought and instead they “leaned him against the wall of the bar”.
It was only when a sober citizen realized that Mr. Law needed medical attention that an ambulance was called and the paramedics in turn called the police.
The court heard Mr Law was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead at 4.41pm despite medical intervention.
Meanwhile, police investigating the tragic death spoke to the bouncer and Doherty, both of whom initially claimed they didn’t know how Mr Law was injured, but the court also overheard this during a phone conversation with the victim’s brother-in-law Der “Extremely desperate” defendant admitted he threw a punch and intended to turn himself in to police.
DS Brannigan outlined how Doherty gave a “full account” of his version of events and claimed he acted in self-defense when he once punched Mr Law in the face.
“His report has been corroborated by other people,” the detective said, adding that investigators spoke to about 30 people in the bar with about half of them but are still conducting a live investigation.
He said court police are refusing bail because of fears that Doherty could interfere with ongoing investigations or commit further crimes, despite having a clear history.
On cross-examination of Mr. Brolly, the DS agreed that the testimonies taken to date “fully corroborate” Doherty’s account, with “no argument against his account” that he acted in self-defense.
While the attorney argued that the CCTV footage was clear in that it showed Mr Law aggressively taking “two or three steps” at Doherty, the officer said all he could see was two “vague.” Figures” and can’t tell who is who.
Referring to his submissions, Mr. Brolly acknowledged that while “it really is a terrible, terrible tragedy” for the Law family, he argued that Doherty should not have been charged at all because he acted in self-defense, and did so was an “overwhelming case” for bail being granted for the alleged killer.
“Mr Doherty is a very well known young man who has played Gaelic football with distinction for Bellaghy, Derry and Ulster,” Mr Brolly said, adding that he had a “clear record and no problems with the police” and the bar since the incident is closed.
“In the circumstances of this case, it is a manifest case of self-defense, as I have encountered in 30 years of practice as a criminal defense attorney,” added Mr. Brolly, describing Doherty as “devastated and wracked with grief” at Mr. Law’s tragic death.
However, despite his warnings, District Judge Nigel Broderick refused to free Doherty.
The judge commented that the live investigation, which centered on a “small rural community,” had yet to speak to more than a dozen witnesses and said he was concerned at the risk of disrupting the witnesses and the investigation or would be instructed.
He remanded Doherty and adjourned the case until December 1.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ex-derry-gaa-captain-and-pub-owner-fergal-doherty-charged-with-manslaughter-of-customer-42116257.html Ex-Derry GAA captain and pub owner Fergal Doherty charged with manslaughter of a customer