Jail over ‘Carrick UDA feud’ attack that left victim vomiting blood

The Royal Oak at Carrick seafront, which stands immediately next door to a police station
The Royal Oak at Carrick seafront, which stands immediately next door to a police station

Three Co Antrim men who were involved in a “cowardly and vicious” attack on a pub doorman who was battered with a fire extinguisher were jailed today for the roles they played in the assault.

The trio – brothers Ian and Brian Sinclair, and Glen McCullough – were all handed jail terms for an incident last March which left a doorman at the Royal Oak pub in Carrickfergus with multiple injuries including fractures to his skull, jaw, eye, and cheekbone.

The doorman and a second bouncer were assaulted after they refused to let Ian Sinclair into the bar.

Ian Sinclair later claimed this was “on account of the ongoing loyalist feud involving the Gilmore family and the South East Antrim UDA”.

During today’s sentencing, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said the attack on the doorman went “well beyond a reaction to being refused a drink”.

Whilst Brian, 52, and Ian Sinclair, 38, caused the doorman grievous bodily harm with intent, 54-year old Ian McCullough was acquitted of this charge, and admitted a lesser charge of causing him actual bodily harm.

In addition, Brian Sinclair admitted a charge of common assault against the second doorman.

Judge Kerr said that while Ian Sinclair both lifted the fire extinguisher and brought it down on the prone doorman, he accepted Brian did not use it during the attack.

Ian Sinclair was handed a sentence of nine years, his brother Brian was handed a six-year sentence while McCullough received a three-year sentence.

All three men were told they will serve half their sentences behind bars, with the remaining half on licence when they are released.

Their addresses cannot be published due to an existing reporting restriction.

During today’s sentencing, Judge Kerr said that after watching CCTV footage of the incident, which occurred on the evening of Saturday March 11 last year, it was clear that after being refused entry, Ian Sinclair threw the first punch at the doorman - which prompted him to strike out with a punch that connected with Brian Sinclair.

While one camera showed McCullough and a doorman fighting in an alleyway, footage from the camera in the bar’s foyer showed the Sinclairs embroiled in a physical confrontation with the other doorman.

The Sinclair brothers then launched a joint attack on the doorman, repeatedly punching him to the head and body. This aspect of the attack was described as “sustained and relentless, two on one” by Judge Kerr.

The doorman - who was initially seen crouching over in the foyer and trying to protect his head as the assault continued - was then brought to the ground, and hit up to three times by a 13.6kg fire extinguisher wielded by Ian Sinclair.

Judge Kerr told the court the blows “appear to have been directed to the upper body” of the prone and at this point defenceless doorman.

The same camera also captured the Sinclair brothers leaving the foyer and walking into the alleyway, and seconds later McCullough appeared in the foyer, lifted the fire extinguisher over his head and dropped it at the visibly injured man.

Judge Kerr said that while he accepted it could not be determined if this action caused any injuries, McCullough’s plea suggested he did cause actual harm by lifting the extinguisher then dropping it as the doorman “lay helpless on the ground.”

As the group left the scene, members of the public came to the doorman’s aid. Vomiting blood and conscious but dazed, he was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where he was treated for a number of fractures to his skull and face.

Having sustained a traumatic brain injury in the attack, he was later transferred to Musgrave Park Hospital.

He now suffers from double vision, hearing loss and a reduced sense of smell and taste, and while Judge Kerr said he had made a good recovery physically, it can “only be imagined the psychological impact this has had on him. It is clear his time working as a doorman is now over.”

Judge Kerr said that while all three men were involved, their levels of involvement differed which, along with personal circumstances, was reflected in the sentencing.

Regarding Ian Sinclair, who came before the court with 38 previous convictions and a long record of unemployment, the Judge said it was he who both lifted and used the fire extinguisher. Noting a history of substance abuse, limited victim awareness and initial claims he was acting in self defence, Judge Kerr handed him a nine year sentence.

As he committed the offences whilst under a suspended sentence, two months were added onto Ian Sinclair’s sentence.

His brother Brian - who did not use the extinguisher but who “enthusiastically” took part in the attack - came before the court with a good working record and several references which indicated last March’s violent incident was out of character.

Sinclair, who has since apologised for what happens and who intents leaving Northern Ireland after serving his sentence, was handed a six year term, with a concurrent one month imposed for assaulting the other doorman.

Judge Kerr said McCullough, a van driver with 71 previous convictions, was “clearly aggressive throughout the incident” but didn’t continue the attack after dropping the fire extinguisher. He was handed a three year sentence.

A restraining order was also issued against all three men to stay away from the injured doorman.