Man claims he was targeted by paramilitaries for dating Protestant women as he denies gun charge

The case was being heard in front of the High Court in Belfast

A man accused of brandishing a gun in west Belfast claims he had been attacked by paramilitaries over his relationship with a Protestant woman, the High Court has been told.

Counsel for Gary McLaughlin said he sustained broken ribs and a serious hand injury in the assault.

But the 27-year-old denies being on the streets with a suspected Glock-style pistol or seeking revenge against those who targeted him last week.

McLaughlin, of North Howard Walk in Belfast, was granted bail to live at an undisclosed address outside the city.

He faces a charge of possessing a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence in connection with an incident on April 9.

According to police members of the public observed him with the suspected gun close to his home address, and then again at nearby Argyle Court and Fifth Street.

CCTV footage was said to show McLaughlin in the area at that time wearing the same clothing described by the witnesses.

When located and arrested on Monday he was dressed in a similar outfit, the court heard.

However, no firearm was recovered during police searches.

McLaughlin claims to have spent the entire weekend in hospital after being subjected to a paramilitary-style assault.

His bid to be released from custody had been opposed due to the potential risk of further injury to either the defendant or others.

It was suggested that he may have taken the alleged weapon to track down any assailants.

But defence barrister Thomas Thibodeau stressed that McLaughlin denies being the individual in the CCTV footage.

Counsel also submitted: “His instructions are that he was attacked because he’s a Catholic in a relationship with a Protestant female.

“This kind of incident has happened before, and he didn’t seek revenge.”

The court was told McLaughlin suffered four fractured ribs, leg injuries and a suspected severing to ligaments in his hand.

Mr Thibodeau argued that his client should be released to seek medical treatment.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Colton prohibited any disclosure of the accused’s whereabouts.

He said: “I do so in order to the protect the applicant… from possible attack, given the history here.”