Man under paramilitary threat issued by his own uncle, court hears
A Newtownards man currently in custody after missing a court appearance is under a paramilitary threat issued by his own uncle, a court heard on Friday.
Ian Price, from Talbot Street in the Co Down town, made an application for bail at Belfast's High Court.
During the hearing it emerged that Price had been issued with a threat by a relative "associated with a criminal organisation", and that the threat was issued because Price "carried the coffin of his friend at a funeral in Carrickfergus earlier this month".
The 31-year old, who has 151 convictions on his criminal record, was arrested after a warrant was issued following a failed court appearance. Friday's hearing was told that Price was arrested following a road traffic incident in Co Antrim last December.
He failed to appear at Ballymena Magistrates Court on April 6 on driving offences including dangerous driving, driving whilst disqualified and failing to remain at the scene of an accident - and was arrested on April 14 in Templepatrick after a warrant was issued.
A Crown prosecutor told Mr Justice Horner that bail was being opposed over fears Price would re-offend. Pointing out that 71 offences on Price's criminal record were for driving matters - and that he was currently a banned driver - the prosecutor also voiced concerns that Price "poses a risk to members of the public when he drivers dangerously, and whilst disqualified".
The prosecutor also spoke of Price's proposed bail address - that of his step-father in Newtownards - and said Price has already told police that due to the threat he is under, he will not stay at this address for more than one night.
Telling Mr Justice Horner that the PSNI has confirmed the threat, the prosecutor said Price's uncle lives in the Newtownards area.
Explaining why Price failed to appear for his hearing at Ballymena Magistrates Court, a defence barrister said it was Price's understanding that he had been excused from attending that day - but that he now realises this was not the case and he should have appeared.
Revealing the threat was issued by Price's uncle for carrying a coffin at a friend's funeral, the defence barrister sought bail and told the court: "This applicant is saying that he could take precaution with his own safety if he is released."
The barrister also said his uncle was "associated with a criminal organisation", adding: "A threat, paramilitary or otherwise, is not a justification for refusing bail."
Regarding the driving offences, Price's barrister said it was his client's case that he was not driving the vehicle and his DNA was not located on the airbags following the collision. The Ards man also made the case that he was in the vehicle before the collision but had left it before the crash.
After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Mr Justice Horner spoke of a risk of both re-offending, Price's previous record and of failing to turn up to further court appearances.
Telling the court Price "only has himself to blame", Mr Justice Horner refused the bail application and concluded by saying: "I am not satisfied I can manage these risks. However, if there is an excessive delay in this case, the pendulum may shift in the other way."