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Alleged Belfast 'rapist' denied bail amid fears of attack by other prisoners

Published 23/02/2016

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One of two men charged with raping a profoundly deaf woman in a west Belfast caravan must remain in custody, a judge ruled today.

Francis Gavin's lawyer argued that he should be released amid fears of attack by other prisoners because of the alleged offence.

But the 23-year-old was refused bail to live with a relative who he is accused of assaulting in a separate incident.

Gavin, of Glen Road Heights in the city, is charged with carrying out the sex attack last Friday along with 18-year-old David Spence.

Police claim Spence, from Ardcaoin Avenue in the Dunmurry area, had arranged a meeting with the woman over social media.

He manipulated and coerced her into getting a taxi to the traveller site on the Glen Road, an investigating detective alleged.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard the woman, who is in her thirties, also suggested her drink may have been spiked.

According to her account she made it clear that she was not interested in having sex at the meeting.

Following the alleged attack she was said to have left the caravan and walked a quarter of a mile down a lane in the dark before reporting the incident at the first house with lights on.

Both men deny charges of rape, insisting all contact with the woman in her thirties was consensual.

Lawyers for Spence argued that he and the woman shared "intimate and suggestive" social media exchanges before meeting.

Photographs were also sent between her and Spence, the court heard.

On Monday Spence was granted bail to stay with his parents under curfew.

He was banned from using mobile phones, computers and accessing social media sites, and must not go near either the alleged victim's home or the traveller site.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall had adjourned Gavin's bail application for police to check out potential living arrangements.

In court today she was told the only possible address was that of a relative he is accused of assaulting during an incident last month.

Defence solicitor Eamon O'Connor stressed that she has now withdrawn her allegation against his client.

He argued that Gavin is vulnerable and worried about what could happen to him in custody.

"Given the nature of the charge... and the publicity, he stands a grave risk of harm," Mr O'Connor said.

But denying bail, Judge Bagnall ruled that the proposed address was unsuitable.

She remanded Gavin in custody to appear again by video-link on March 22.

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