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Belfast man accused of offences linked to alleged high speed car chase is refused bail

A man accused of driving a stolen car spotted performing handbrake turns and going through red lights in north Belfast must remain in custody, a judge has ruled.

Joseph McDonnell, 32, was refused bail amid claims he was behind the wheel of a Kia Sportage involved in a high-speed pursuit at the weekend.

McDonnell, of Alliance Avenue in the city, appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court on Monday, May 18, charged with aggravated vehicle taking driven dangerously, taking a motor vehicle without authority, and failing to stop for police.

He also faces counts of driving when unfit through drink or drugs, failing to provide a specimen of breath, having no licence or insurance, and possession of an offensive weapon - namely a screwdriver.

The alleged offences occurred in the early hours of Saturday, May 16.

A PSNI detective said the vehicle was observed doing handbrake turns on North Queen Street and then heading towards Duncairn Gardens.

The driver, wearing a black jacket and baseball cap, continued despite police signals to halt, the court was told.

The car allegedly failed to stop at red lights, travelling at high speed on the wrong side of the road, before being abandoned back in the North Queen Street area.

Two men got out and ran towards the New Lodge area.

McDonnell was detained a short time later, with police claiming he had a screwdriver on him.

"He informed the arresting officer that it was for his own protection," the detective said.

McDonnell is also charged with carrying out a burglary at offices on Great Patrick Street in Belfast on February 5 this year.

Prosecutors contended that he is forensically linked to that break-in by blood found on a door handle at the premises.

Defence solicitor Fergal MacElhatton challenged the strength of evidence to connect his client to the driving offences.

The lawyer argued that he had only been charged on the basis of a clothing description.

Denying bail, however, District Judge George Conner said: "There's just too high a risk of further offences being committed where the public would be put at extreme danger."

He remanded McDonnell in custody to appear again in four weeks time.

Belfast Telegraph