Teacher cleared of finger biting

A Belfast grammar school teacher has been cleared of biting off part of a pub doorman’s finger during a brawl outside a bar.

It took the Belfast Crown Court jury of nine men and three women less than an hour to unanimously acquit 45-year-old Tony Austin of causing the doorman grievous bodily harm.

The St Mary’s grammar school teacher had always denied attacking doorman Patrick McDonell outside McEnaney’s Bar on the Glen Road in west Belfast on July 22 2007.

Following his acquittal, Austin, through his solicitor said he “just wants to thank the jury for their ‘Not Guilty’ verdict”.

By their verdict the jury have accepted Austin’s claims that he was never involved in any attack on the doorman after a group of men were ousted from the bar, commonly known as ‘the grave-diggers’.

They have also rejected allegation by Mr McDonnell that it was the school teacher who had “snapped” at him as he went to the aid of another doorman.

Mr McDonnell had claimed that Austin, whom he had known for 15 years after coaching him in GAA, had been facing him when he ‘snapped’ at him up to three times before one of the bites took off the top part of his little finger of his left hand.

The bouncer had also claimed that he knew “straight away” he had been injured as the pain was “excruciating”.

However, during the trial it soon emerged that Mr McDonell had allegedly told a different story in which he claimed initially he “didn’t even feel it”.

In separate articles, which appeared in the Irish News and Andersonstown News, he was also reported as saying that far from facing the school teacher, he had turned his back on Austin.

Solicitor, Ciaran Shiels, from Madden & Finucane solicitors said the decision was “a complete vindication of Mr Austin’s innocence and reputation and furthermore a vindication of the trial Judge’s ruling, which was subsequently appealed by the Public Prosecution Service, that there was no case to answer against the Defendant.

“It is the duty of the prosecution to put before the court witnesses of truth and reliability. As the jury’s verdict confirms, they did not do so in this case.”