Sectarian thug jailed after fight over spilled pint

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A sectarian thug once imprisoned for 22 years for the attempted murder of a Catholic man has been jailed for nine months for a drunken street fight over a spilled pint.

Although handed the sentence at Antrim Crown Court yesterday, with the same period to be spent on licence, Aaron White will soon be free as he has already spent a year on remand waiting for his case to be dealt with.

The court heard that 46-year-old White, from Lettercreeve in Ballymena, was only out of prison for six months when he was involved in an incident in the Moat Bar on February 24 last year.

Prosecuting barrister Suzanne Gallagher told the court the victim, Thomas McIlhagga, had set a pint of beer on a table when “the defendant walked by him and knocked it over,” leading to a verbal argument between them.

When Mr McIlhagga left after last orders, at around 12.44am, he spotted White standing close to a former ice cream factory.

“He asked him ‘what the f*** are you waiting for’,” said Ms Gallagher, adding that White told him “you” before the pair started to fight.

It was during the struggle, she said, that White caused Mr McIlhagga “to fall to the ground,” cutting his hand on broken glass and damaging his ligaments and nerve endings.

Describing the fight as “something of a wrestling match,” defence QC Alan Kane submitted that had it not been for the broken glass, the case would most likely have been dealt with in the lower courts and that if Mr McIlhagga had “walked on” instead of crossing the road to speak to White, “it may not have resulted in what took place.”

White was in jail for half of his 22-year sentence, imposed in 2007 for a brutal attack on Michael Liam Reid in 2003. Mr Reid, a Catholic, was cut 16 times, beaten with a saucepan, kicked and subjected to an attempted strangulation.

In court yesterday, Judge Desmond Marrinan said it was “concerning” that White had reoffended just six months after his release.