18 Aug 2022

Awaiting sentencing after being convicted of punching man responsible for manslaughter of father

Derry courthouse
A man will be sentenced at Derry Magistrate's Court last this after being convicted of assaulting the man who was responsible for the manslaughter of his father. James McGaughey (24), of Celandine Court in Derry, had denied assault occasioning actual bodily harm on James Healy on 7 May last. He also denied harassment of Healy between 1 and 31 January last year. Mr Healy gave evidence that last January he had been crossing the Peace Bridge when he encountered McGaughey. He told the court he initially thought the other man had not seen him but then said McGaughey started shouting things like "you murdering b------d" and "I' ll get you." He told the court that McGaughey then followed him up to his flat and said he felt "anxious" after the incident. Mr Healy said the next day he had been outside Quayside Shopping Centre on Strand Road talking to a friend when he felt a bump on his shoulder and saw McGaughey pushing a pram. He said the defendant told him he was lucky he had his child with him or he would have killed him. Again, Mr Healy said this left him "anxious." In relation to the incident in May, Mr Healy said he had been walking across the lower deck of the Craigavon Bridge when he encountered McGaughey and another man. He said the defendant said to him "no knives today big man" before punching him and breaking his nose. Mr Healy said after the assault he "turned and ran." Under cross-examination by Alan Stewart, defence barrister, Mr Healy agreed he had been convicted of the manslaughter of McGaughey's father on 30 October 2011. He also agreed the killing involved a knife and that he had been released from prison in October 2017. Mr Stewart put it to Mr Healy that the first time he had seen McGaughey since his release from prison was when they had a "chance encounter" on the Craigavon Bridge. This was denied. It was also put to the witness that the incidents he recounted in January simply had not happened. Mr Healy maintained they had. The barrister put it to him that when he saw McGaughey he had said to him "would you like me to murder you like I murdered your father?" The witness said this was "a complete lie." The witness was asked did the attack happen because McGaughey perceived him to be a threat and he replied that he just wanted to get on with his life. McGaughey who told the court t Healy had used "two knives" to kill his father. He said the first time he had seen Healy since his release was in May. He said when they met on the Craigavon Bridge, Healy had made the remarks about his father and then reached to his pocket. McGaughey said he thought Mr Healy was reaching for a weapon so he punched him. The defendant said he was "scared" at the time. Under cross-examination by a prosecution solicitor, McGaughey denied having met Healy before the incident in May. It was put to McGaughey that he had struck out because "you were understandably angry" but this was denied. He was asked why he had not phoned the police after Healy made the threat to him and he said he didn't think he should. It was put to him that he had earlier said he would phone the police if anything happened. District Judge Barney McElholm said the case came down to a credibility issue. He said he did not believe Mr Healy had done anything and said that he would not take issue with anger towards the witness. However, he added people could not simply 'lash out as that road leads to anarchy.' He convicted McGaughey and adjourned the case to 3 May for a pre-sentence report.

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