Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Bail order to avoid paramilitaries is impossible: lawyer

An order for one of the men charged in connection with the murder of journalist Martin O'Hagan to have no association with loyalist paramilitaries is unenforceable, it has been claimed in the High Court.

Lawyers for Robin King (43) argued he could unwittingly breach the bail condition because thousands of people may have links to outlawed organisations.

A judge was told yesterday that at one stage the Ulster Defence Association alone was estimated to have over 10,000 members.

The claim came as King, of no known address, applied to have his release terms varied to achieve parity with his co-accused.

He has been charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice following a re-investigation into the shooting of Mr O'Hagan. The Sunday World reporter was gunned down near his home in Lurgan in September 2001.

Three other men were charged with the murder including King's 41-year-old brother Drew, of Moss Road, Waringstown.

Following variations to the bail conditions imposed on other suspects Robin King's legal team returned to the High Court seeking similar changes. He was subject to a curfew and ordered to report to police three times a week.

Counsel for King also contested a direction that he does not associate with any member of a loyalist paramilitary organisation.

The barrister stressed his client had no difficulty with the prohibition, but added: “I would make the point that is unenforceable.”

He pointed to Northern Ireland's history and perceived numbers involved in organisations, such as the UDA.

Family and friends of those involved or with convictions could be viewed as an association, it was claimed.

Despite the submissions, Mr Justice Hart said he was not prepared to remove the association ban imposed by another judge.

However, he did agree to lift King's curfew and reduce his reporting to once a week.

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