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Christopher Meli murder accused Laverty gets bail

A teenager accused of murdering Christopher Meli in Belfast can be released on bail, a High Court judge ruled today.

Caolan Laverty, 18, allegedly fought with the young father and kicked him as he was put in the recovery position amid violent confrontations in December 2015.

Laverty, of Broom Park Heights in Dunmurry, is the youngest of three people charged with 20-year-old Mr Meli's murder. 

He had been returned to custody in March for breaching curfew and alcohol conditions in an incident where a car registered to him was discovered on fire.

But Mr Justice Treacy said he was granting bail once more "by the slimmest of margins" based on his behaviour at the youth detention centre and potential delays in any trial.

Detectives believe up to 20 youths were involved in clashes that led to the victim suffering fatal head injuries at Doc's Lane in the Twinbrook estate.

One line of enquiry is that the murder victim and his friends were targeted in retaliation for a clash outside a kebab shop on the Stewartstown Road earlier the same night.

Mr Meli was said to have been located, knocked to the ground and then repeatedly punched and kicked about the head.

A previous court heard Laverty told police during initial interviews that he punched him twice in self-defence.

The second strike was said to have been delivered with the aim of "putting him down" after the first blow had no effect.

However, Laverty then produced a prepared statement retracting those admissions, claiming they were untrue and only made up to help out others.

He denied any assault on Mr Meli.

But prosecution counsel said others have alleged Laverty was involved in a one-on-one fight with the deceased at the location his body was found.

Witnesses claimed that while Mr Meli was being tended to by passers-by on the ground and placed in the recovery position, Laverty ran forward and kicked him in the stomach area.

Another at the scene alleged they heard the defendant shout "Come on, we'll get knives and go after him", and join the crowd pursuing Mr Meli.

In court today Mr Justice Treacy cited a report praising Laverty's enthusiasm for education at the detention centre.

He also pointed to support being offered by the Youth Justice Agency and a £1,000 cash surety put up by the accused's family.

Granting bail under curfew and electronic monitoring, the judge warned: "If he breaches again he will go back into custody and stay there for however long it takes for the trial to take place." ends

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