A student from Co Donegal has been acquitted of inflicting grievous bodily harm on another man in an early morning incident in Belfast.
It took a jury of nine men and three woman less than an hour on Thursday to return a unanimous “not guilty” verdict against Arlen Noonan.
In a two-day trial held at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Noonan (20) stood accused of attacking a man who sustained a fractured skull and a bleed on the brain in the incident, which was captured on CCTV.
Noonan – who has been at a comedy gig in Belfast with friends on the evening in question – always admitted punching the complainant once, but said he was acting in defence of his friend.
The CCTV footage of the incident – which occurred outside the City Hall in the early hours of November 10 last year – was played to the jury. The footage showed an altercation between the complainant and a friend of Mr Noonan’s, and also showed Mr Noonan punching the complainant once to the side of the face.
This resulted in the complainant falling back, striking his head on the ground and being rendered unconscious. He was rushed to hospital where he was treated for a fractured skull and a bruise on the brain.
The jury was told that prior to the punch being thrown, the complainant had been involved in a separate, unrelated incident where he had been attacked and sustained facial injuries.
Mr Noonan saw the complainant sitting on a bench with a bloody face, helped him and gave him a tissue to mop up the blood. A short time later, an altercation between the complainant and Mr Noonan’s friend occurred, which resulted in Mr Noonan punching the complainant.
The student always admitted striking out once, but denied the charge and said he acted in self-defence in a bid to protect his friend.
The complainant gave evidence at the trial and, after watching the CCTV footage for the first time, he admitted he was acting aggressively.
Jurors also heard from a retired Guard who knows the Noonan family and described the student as a hard-working, decent young man.
After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury returned a unanimous “not guilty” verdict.
At this point, Judge Philip Gilpin addressed a weeping Mr Noonan and told him: “You have been acquitted. You are a free man. You can leave the dock.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital