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American wanted in connection with Belfast attack had been regularly visiting Northern Ireland


Belfast High Court.

Belfast High Court.

Belfast High Court.

An American citizen wanted for allegedly fracturing another man's skull in Belfast more than three years ago had been returning to Northern Ireland on a monthly basis, the High Court heard today.

Paul Burns was only arrested last month after being stopped in a car on suspicion of possessing an unidentified illegal substance, prosecutors said.

Granting bail to the 28-year-old, a judge banned him from going near any US embassy or consulate without notifying police.

Burns, of Front Street in Boston, is charged with causing grievous bodily harm in connection with an incident in the Suffolk Road area of west Belfast in December 2014.

Crown lawyer Rosemary Walsh said it involved an allegation of punching another man twice to the face, knocking him to the ground.

"Later medical examinations revealed fractures to a cheekbone, upper eye socket and a fracture to the skull which resulted in having a metal plate inserted," she told the court.

Burns, whose father is American, was said to have returned to the United States the following month and remained unaware police were seeking him.

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The bricklayer was detained on May 31 this year and further charged with possessing a Class C drug over white capsules allegedly found on him.

The court heard Burns told police he remembered nothing about the night of the alleged assault and insisted he had no ill-feeling towards the injured man.

"I'm told that although he was circulated as wanted and should have been picked up, he had been coming in and out of Northern Ireland three or four times a year since this took place," Ms Walsh added.

Defence counsel Kelly Doherty disclosed that her client had actually been returning on a monthly basis amid attempts to re-establish a relationship with his partner.

"He was simply travelling back and forth, completely unaware there was an issue," she said.

Lord Justice Stephens ruled Burns can be released from custody once a £5,000 cash surety is lodged.

Ordering the accused to live under curfew at an address in west Belfast, the judge also directed: "He's not to be within 200 metres of an American embassy or consulate without notifying police in writing in advance by a period of one week."

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