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Murder suspect has bail revoked after being arrested an hour after court relaxed curfew

Judge deemed it 'stupidity of the highest order'

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 21-year-old murder suspect had his bail revoked on Friday after it emerged he was arrested in Boots less than an hour after appearing in court.

Lee Smyth is one of a number of people charged with offences linked to the murder of west Belfast man Christopher Meli, who was attacked and beaten to death by a mob in Twinbrook in December 2015.

Smyth, who was living at a bail address outside Belfast that could not be reported, attended court on Thursday when a successful application was made to vary a bail condition to allow him to take up a job offer.

On Thursday Smyth's legal team asked that his curfew be relaxed, which would allow him to secure a month's seasonal employment. The variation was granted by Mr Justice Colton at Belfast Crown Court with the brief hearing ending at 10.35am.

At 11.10am, Smyth and a young female came to the attention of staff at Boots Chemist at Donegall Place where they were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting.

Smyth spent Thursday in police custody before appearing in court on Friday in a grey police-issue tracksuit.

As Mr Meli's relatives sat in the public gallery, Smyth was brought into the dock where he spoke to confirm his name.

A crown prosecutor then asked Mr Justice Colton to revoke Smyth's bail.

Outlining the reasons for this request, the barrister said that after leaving court on Thursday, Smyth was arrested on suspicion of theft less than an hour later.

The prosecutor said Smyth and the female were seen in the fragrance section of Boots, where items were seen being put in the girl's handbag. At this point, Smyth shouted "that's lies."

The Crown barrister also said that when searched, a perfume gift set was located down the front of Smyth's trousers. He told the court that during police interviews, the female made admissions, while Smyth replied "no comment."

Asking the court to revoke Smyth's bail, the prosecutor spoke of 14 breaches of bail committed by Smyth, which included him being found "heavily intoxicated" and on another occasion he had secreted drugs up his rectum.

The barrister said: "This latest incident on Thursday is set against a backdrop of a fairly significant period of non-compliance on bail. He has fully displayed he cannot comply with bail conditions."

Mark Crawford, the solicitor representing Smyth, said he had to accept that to be arrested so soon after leaving court on Thursday was "stupidity of the highest order."

Asking the Judge to defer making a decision to revoke bail and to reflect over the weekend, Mr Crawford urged Mr Justice Colton to take into account Smyth's young age and "limited intellectual ability."

Noting Smyth had an "untidy bail history", Mr Crawford asked that Judge not to revoke his client's bail as this would only result in the seasonal job offer disappearing.

Addressing the court, Mr Justice Colton said that when he was persuaded to grant Smyth bail last year, he was "sufficiently concerned" to impose strict conditions.

Regarding the incident at Boots, the Judge said that while Smyth was entitled to the presumption of innocence, it seems there was a prima facie case against him for theft.

Mr Justice Colton concluded: "I am therefore going to revoke bail. I am not satisfied he will comply with conditions. He is not a suitable candidate for bail and Crown Court bail is revoked."

This was greeted with applause from Mr Meli's family in the public gallery. Smyth responded by turning round in the dock and clapping back at them. He then said "well, well, well" and did a little dance in the dock, following by a verbal altercation with the family as he was led from the court in handcuffs by the prison staff.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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