Judge extends name ban
A district judge has taken the unprecedented step of imposing an anonymity order on a case involving three men accused of non drug-related offences.
Londonderry Judge Barney McElholm in the past has imposed anonymity orders on cases where people were charged with offences linked to illegal drugs.
He said he did so because of the activities of vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs.
RAAD is mainly active in Derry and Strabane and has been blamed for around 40 paramilitary-style punishment attacks on alleged drug dealers.
It murdered Derry man Andrew Allen in Buncrana, Co Donegal, in February 2012. In a statement it branded Mr Allen a "death dealer" and "career criminal".
At Derry Magistrates Court yesterday, just before a preliminary enquiry involving three men, Judge McElholm said he was imposing the order because naming one could result in the other two coming to the "attention of elements in this city who have shown in the past they are prepared to maim and kill".
One was charged with obstructing a police officer.
The second was charged with perverting the course of justice by falsely identifying someone to the police.
The third was charged with perverting the course of justice by falsely claiming he was someone who had been asked to produce their driving documents.
They were returned for trial to a date later this month.
Judge McElholm has justified previous decisions to impose reporting restrictions
He said he grants the orders because "there are people out there who seem to believe if someone is charged with an offence it means they are guilty of it".
In another drugs-related case in front of him yesterday he was happy for accused to be named, but this was said to be because the defendant was in custody and his case already publicised.
He revealed recently that since granting anonymity orders he had been subjected to hate mail.
Mr McElholm said: "I have received hate mail on social media sites from all sorts of lunatic right-wing fanatics in England who seem to think that RAAD is a great bunch of boys."
Not all judges are happy with Mr McElholm's approach. A visiting judge recently questioned the policy to grant anonymity to those charged with certain offences.
District Judge John Meehan, asked: "What is this anonymity about? This is the fifth case today."