Trader's shock as bail blunder lets assault accused back into his shop
An administrative blunder has allowed a man charged with a brutal assault on a shopkeeper to breach his bail conditions and visit the shop owner's business.
Mohammed Ali was left with a fracture to his face during an assault last November.
His alleged attacker appeared in Londonderry Magistrates Court on May 9 charged with assault causing actual bodily harm, but was released on bail with a number of conditions attached.
These included wearing an electronic tag, observing a curfew and a ban on entering licensed premises or consuming intoxicating liquor or drugs, and forbidding him to go anywhere near Mr Ali.
However, just nine days later the man walked into Mr Ali's shop and refused to get out, leaving the shopkeeper frightened for his safety.
When he was later told by a police officer that being barred from the premises was not part of the man's bail conditions, Mr Ali was furious, saying the judicial system was leaving him vulnerable.
It has since transpired that while staying away from Mr Ali was initially part of the bail conditions imposed on the accused, an administrative error occurred when the man was back in court on unrelated charges where different bail requirements were imposed.
Mr Ali said: "This is turning into a farce. The whole system is useless because I have been left in a situation where this man is quite within his rights to come into my shop any time he wants and there is nothing I can do. I am at his mercy.
"I was so shocked on Sunday when I looked up and saw this man in my shop.
"I told him to get out but he refused, no matter how many times I asked him.
"I rang the police, who came, but later they told me there was nothing they could do because it was not part of his bail conditions to stay away from me.
"Now I find out that it was, but that part was taken off when the man was back in court on different charges not involving me, and that it was an administrative error.
"The PPS told me they are trying to get it sorted but it may be a couple of days yet, which is no good to me.
"I cannot sit in my house hiding away.
"I have to earn my living.
"I must work, which means this man could come back to my shop any minute he wants.
"I am so angry; the system is suppose to protect the victim but I do not feel protected."
The alleged assailant is due back in court next Thursday on the assault charge against Mr Ali, but amending the error on the man's bail conditions is expected to be completed by today, meaning he would be barred from coming anywhere near the shopkeeper, which also means he would also effectively be prevented from visiting the shop.
A spokeswoman for the PPS said the change in the bail conditions was made by mistake.
She said: "Variations to the bail conditions in the case involving Mr Ali were not made known to the prosecution.
"Once the PPS became aware of the situation it has taken urgent action with a view to having the originally imposed bail conditions reinstated.
"A PPS prosecutor has met with Mr Ali to explain what has occurred and how it is intended to resolve the situation."
No one from the Court Service was available to comment yesterday.