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Teacher cleared of finger biting
17 November 2010 --
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, from Garnock Hill, 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
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