Belfast Telegraph

Accused out of his mind on drugs during secret recordings, court told

A man secretly recorded discussing his alleged role in setting fire to three police officers' cars was making false boasts while "out of his mind" on drugs, the High Court heard today.

Hugh Boyce is accused of being a key member of a criminal network involved in the wholesale supply of narcotics, extortion and intimidation in Mid Ulster.

Between October 2015 and July 2016 arson attacks were carried out on 30 vehicles - 27 of them belonging to civilian victims said to be too scared to assist the investigation.

Prosecutors also claimed there had been a plot to construct improvised explosives using fireworks.

But Boyce's lawyer argued that alleged admissions picked up in a bugging operation were nothing more than lies and bravado. Details emerged as the 27-year-old was refused bail.

Boyce, of Curran Road in Larne, Co Antrim, faces charges of conspiring to commit arson and to cause an explosion, arson endangering life with intent, and being concerned in the supply of cocaine and the offer to supply cannabis and diazepam.

The alleged offences are linked to an organised gang operating in the greater Craigavon area.

According to the prosecution Boyce is "directly below" the man believed to be in charge of the crime outfit.

The serving police officers were targeted as part of a wider campaign of intimidation, Madam Justice McBride was told.

A Crown lawyer said: "Out of the 27 other incidents of arson police have received no co-operation from the victims due to fear of reprisals."

Those difficulties in obtaining evidence led to covert surveillance being authorised.

Taped conversations in another co-accused's car involved Boyce referring to his involvement in the arsons, it was claimed.

The court heard he stated: "The cops know it's me getting all the cop cars burnt."

Fingerprint evidence also allegedly connects Boyce to fireworks seized during the investigation.

Defence counsel Stephen Toal said his client accepts his voice is on the surveillance tapes - but claims to have been either drunk or high on drugs.

"He instructs that many of the conversations were boastful, many of the things said were untrue and said in the context of him being out of his mind," the barrister submitted.

Denying bail, however, the judge cited the risk of further offences.

Madam Justice McBride added: "I also have some concern about interference with witnesses at this stage." 

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