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A 20-strong crowd which took part in a vicious sectarian attack in Carrickfergus last week-end was described in the High Court today as a "lynch mob."

Three Catholic families were forced to leave their homes as a result of the attack, said Crown lawyer David Hopley.

He was opposing bail applications by three Carrickfergus men accused of intimidation, causing grievous bodily harm and criminal damage.

The accused are: Norman Hendry, aged 42, from The Hollies, Philip Wills, 25, of Dean Park, and James Brown, 18, of Minorca Drive.

Mr Hopley said Hendry and Christopher Kearney, 23, were involved in a fight outside an off-licence in Irish Quarter West last Saturday.

He said Mr Kearney, a Roman Catholic, then went to the home of his friend Aaron Fay at Thomas Street.

About half an hour later a mob of 20 plus men forced their way into the house and viciously assaulted Mr Kearney.

At one stage he was held spread-eagled on the ground while Hendry punched him.

"The crowd hurled all manner of things, including a TV and video, at Mr Kearney," said Mr Hopley.

"They broke kitchen chairs over him and he was thrown out through a kitchen window. As he lay on the ground Hendry sat on his face and pushed it into broken glass

"Sectarian abuse was also hurled at Mr Kearney and sectarian threats were made to his sister Lisa Magill. She was told that if she did not move they would burn her out of Carrick. The householder Mr Fay was also attacked.

"This was a vicious sectarian attack and there seems to be some festering history involving a football team," added Mr Hopley.

"This was a lynch mob that arrived to attack Mr Kearney and he was badly beaten. As a result of this attack three families have been forced to leave their homes."

Mr Hopley said Mr Kearney`s injuries included a broken nose, fractured cheek bone and cuts and bruises on most of his body.

Lawyers for all three accused said they denied taking part in the attack.

It was claimed that Hendry and Wills were not even present as they were in their own homes, Hendry recovering from injuries received when he was allegedly assaulted by Mr Kearney.

Mr Justice Sheil said it was with considerable hesitation that he was granting bail.

"This kind of mob behaviour is disgreaceful in any society," he said, and added:

"What their role in this incident was will be a matter for
their trial."

He released the defendants on bail of £750 each and ordered them to reside at addresses well away from Carrickfergus pending the outcome of the case.

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