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Man charged with interrogating drug dealer denied bail

By John Cassidy

Published 05/02/2016

An alleged member of a dissident republican punishment gang has been refused bail after a court heard he was out on licence at the time he is accused of
An alleged member of a dissident republican punishment gang has been refused bail after a court heard he was out on licence at the time he is accused of "aggressively" interrogating a drug dealer

An alleged member of a dissident republican punishment gang has been refused bail after a court heard he was out on licence at the time he is accused of "aggressively" interrogating a drug dealer.

Belfast Crown Court was told that Robert Warnock O'Neill (39), of Bingnian Drive, Belfast, has been on remand awaiting trial for almost 22 months on six terrorist-related offences.

He is accused of membership of a proscribed organisation, namely Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH), conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent, false imprisonment, making or collecting information on alleged drug dealers, possession of a firearm with intent and having it in suspicious circumstances.

It is alleged the offences were committed on dates between December 1, 2013 and June 25, 2014.

Prosecution barrister Robin Steer told the court that O'Neill was one of five defendants linked to a property at Aspen Walk in Dunmurry, Belfast, in which police had made covert recordings of conversations.

He said that O'Neill was linked to the property on two dates, the first being in December 2013 when his voice was heard discussing "paramilitary strategy and the targeting of drug dealers on behalf of ONH".

Judge Gordon Kerr QC was told that on the second date in February 14, 2014, O'Neill was also linked by voice analysis to the house where a "suspected drug dealer, called 'PB', was being imprisoned and was being aggressively interrogated by this defendant and two others".

The prosecution lawyer said that O'Neill's co-defendants have now all been released on bail by the court but the Crown was objecting to O'Neill being released on similar terms given his criminal record. Defence solicitor Philip Breen said O'Neill had now been on remand for almost 22 months and there was no prospect in the "forseeable future" of a possible trial date. He told Judge Kerr QC that O'Neill had been granted compassionate bail in May 2015 for several hours and £50,000 was put up as surety to secure his release.

"I have spoken to my client's brother who is prepared to put a £5,000 cash surety to secure his release on the same stringent terms as his four co-accused."

Judge Gordon Kerr QC said he was aware that O'Neill's co-defendants had been released.

But he said O'Neill had been on licence for less than a year when he allegedly committed these further offences.

He refused bail as he deemed O'Neill a risk to the public.

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