Belfast Telegraph

Bail denied as judge rules Cork man on smuggling charge is a flight risk

By John Cassidy

A Co Cork man was refused bail yesterday after a judge said he was concerned he may not turn up for his trial for allegedly smuggling cigarettes into Northern Ireland.

Noel Corcoran (58), of St Frances Gardens, Blackpool, in Cork city, appeared at Belfast Crown Court via video link from Maghaberry prison.

A prosecution lawyer told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that Corcoran was stopped in a van on the M2 motorway in April 2012 by HM Revenue & Customs.

The court heard that Customs officers found 200,000 cigarettes in the rear of the van and the potential loss in duty was estimated at £55k.

The lawyer said Corcoran was arrested and interviewed and released "unconditionally" pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service. Corcoran returned to Cork and the prosecutor said that a summons was issued to his solicitors "but this was not answered" and a European Arrest Warrant was issued.

The court heard the defendant mounted a legal challenge in a Dublin courtroom to his extradition, citing "safety risks" if he was returned to Northern Ireland.

However, his legal challenge failed and he was returned to Northern Ireland following a handover at the border by Gardai to the PSNI and Customs officers on February 16 this year.

Corcoran later appeared at Belfast Magistrates' Court, and on March 8 he was returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Defence barrister Mark Farrell said Corcoran was effectively a "courier" who was paid a few hundred euros to bring the cigarettes to Northern Ireland.

He told the court that a bail application had previously been heard in the High Court by Mr Justice McCloskey.

"His Lordship said that he required two things before he would grant bail. One, he requested confirmation from An Garda Siochana that they would enforce the bail order from the North. "That confirmation has been received in writing from a Garda Sergeant Murphy who knows the defendant.

"Two, there was to be a cash surety in place. The defendant's sister has travelled from Cork today for these proceedings with a cash surety of £1,000.

"He is not a risk of flight as he has always resided in court. He was released by Customs unconditionally pending a report to the PPS and he didn't skip the jurisdiction.''

But Judge McFarland said he was refusing bail: "I have concerns that he will not present himself for arraignment and trial.''

The Belfast Recorder added that there was an issue surrounding extradition from the Republic of Ireland to the UK post-Brexit and the Supreme Court in Dublin had already referred an extradition case to the European Court of Justice.

"That may take some time to come to court. I am concerned about the issue of flight and I am not assuaged that he will turn up for his arraignment or trial. Bail is refused."

The judge ordered Corcoran to appear at court next week to be formally arraigned on a single charge of evading excise duty on the smuggled cigarettes.

Belfast Telegraph

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