Northern Ireland

Loyalist William 'Mo' Courtney gets suspended sentence for headbutt

William 'Mo' Courtney Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption William 'Mo' Courtney, pictured in 2005 at Alan McCullough trial

A leading loyalist who headbutted a grieving woman has been given a four-month suspended jail sentence.

William 'Mo' Courtney, 50, of Fernhill Heights, Belfast, was also ordered to pay Tracey Coulter £500 in compensation for the assault last July.

The attack happened at the Lower Shankill Community Association offices.

She had gone there to speak to one of Courtney's associates about the suspected drug-related death of her cousin a week earlier.

A row broke out between Ms Coulter and another man, Courtney intervened and attacked her, a previous hearing was told.

'Degree of acrimony'

Courtney, who was previously jailed for his role in the 2003 killing of UDA man Alan McCullough, had claimed no assault took place.

During a sentencing hearing on Friday, a defence lawyer said there was "a degree of acrimony" between Courtney and Ms Coulter.

He said he accepted his client had a criminal history but argued that his record had diminished in recent years.

"Mr Courtney is still very much involved in community work and still involved in helping others in the local community," he said.

The judge acknowledged that the assault, which happened during attempts to evict Ms Coulter from the premises, had inflicted only minor injuries.

But she added: "What was of concern to me were a number of unsubstantiated allegations put to the injured party which were not just to discredit her in terms of her evidence, but to discredit her character.

"These were not proven at any stage."

The judge said Courtney's future conduct would determine whether he had to serve the four-month prison sentence, suspended for three years.