'terrible tragedy' | 

Former GAA star charged with manslaughter of customer at his pub to move back home

Fergal Doherty is currently facing prosecution over the death of Aaron Law in Portglenone, Co Antrim, earlier this year

Alan ErwinBelfast Telegraph

A former GAA star charged with the manslaughter of a customer outside his village pub is to be allowed to move back home, a High Court judge in Belfast has ruled.

Fergal Doherty is currently facing prosecution over the death of Aaron Law in Portglenone, Co Antrim, earlier this year.

The 41-year-old accused was granted bail four weeks ago under terms which prevented him from living at his family’s home in the nearby Bellaghy area.

But Mr Justice O’Hara lifted the prohibition after police confirmed Doherty has not breached his release terms.

He said: “Upsetting as it may be for Mr Law’s extended family, the potential for them to encounter Mr Doherty in the greater north Antrim or south Derry area is not a basis on which a bail variation can be refused.

“I will remove the restriction that he must reside in Co Armagh and replace it with the restriction that he lives at his home address.”

Mr Law, 34, was found unconscious on Main Street, Portglenone in the early hours of October 30.

The father-of-two suffered a head injury and died later in hospital.

Prosecutors allege he was left lying on the road for up to 15 minutes following a confrontation with Doherty.

The defendant, who captained the Derry senior county team during his Gaelic footballing career and now owns Pat’s Bar in the village, denies a charge of manslaughter.

He claims to have swung a single punch in self-defence after being struck at first.

A previous court heard Mr Law was at a stag party in the pub when he became involved in a verbal altercation with a doorman who escorted him from the premises.

Doherty told police he went outside to help calm the situation.

According to his account Mr Law became abusive, threatened to smash the bar’s windows, and tried to punch him.

Doherty said he retaliated with one blow to the mouth which caused Mr Law to fall and strike his head on the ground.

During a total of 10 interviews, he repeatedly stated that he returned to the bar and asked another member of the stag party to “check on his mate”.

The defendant and a member of staff then went back outside and moved Mr Law to the side of the pub where he started to make snoring noises.

Believing that Mr Law was drunk and sleeping, he again told friends to carry out checks on him.

Defence counsel argued that the incident had been “a terrible tragedy” without any evidence to refute Doherty’s self-defence case.

In court today prosecutors said police would be “more content” if the accused continued to live in Co Armagh.

However, the judge confirmed that Doherty can return to a home address outside Portglenone.

With the defendant barred from entering the village, Mr Justice O’Hara reminded him: “You are still excluded from speaking to Crown witnesses.”

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