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Bid for release from jail over virus fears thrown out by judge

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A 41-year-old Co Down man made an unsuccessful bid for bail yesterday due to fears of exposure to coronavirus in "the potential Petri dish in Maghaberry"

A 41-year-old Co Down man made an unsuccessful bid for bail yesterday due to fears of exposure to coronavirus in "the potential Petri dish in Maghaberry"

A 41-year-old Co Down man made an unsuccessful bid for bail yesterday due to fears of exposure to coronavirus in "the potential Petri dish in Maghaberry"

A 41-year-old Co Down man made an unsuccessful bid for bail yesterday due to fears of exposure to coronavirus in "the potential Petri dish in Maghaberry".

Stephen Samuel Thompson is currently facing charges linked to an incident in east Belfast in February last year, and an additional two drugs offences dating back to last July.

Thompson, from Main Street in Greyabbey, was arrested after a car crashed into a garden wall on February 23, 2019. Drugs and an air pistol were recovered from the vehicle, and Thompson was later arrested.

A barrister acting on Thompson's behalf launched a bail application at Belfast Crown Court on the grounds he wanted to be released from Maghaberry to avoid exposure to coronavirus in prison, and to offer assistance to his partner, three children and father in the current climate.

Crown barrister David McNeill said police were opposing Thompson's release for several reasons, including fears of further offending. Revealing Thompson has 125 previous convictions on his criminal record which include breaches of court orders as well as firearms and drugs offences, Mr McNeill said: "This is someone who has a difficulty complying with court orders and complying with lawful authorities."

Mr McNeill also revealed that the proposed bail address, which is that of his partner and their three children, has been deemed as unsuitable "given the nature of the offences" he has been charged with.

Mr McNeill noted Thompson's desire "not to be exposed to any virus in prison" - but described him as "volatile" and said he had "difficulty adhering to lawful constrains".

Defence barrister Eoin McDonald told Judge Stephen Fowler QC that if released, his client "will not engage in any nefarious activity as he does not want to risk going back into custody".

Describing HMP Maghaberry as a "potential Petri dish", Mr McDonald said Thompson would adhere to any bail conditions imposed.

Mr McDonald said Thompson was aware he would be "watched like a hawk" by police if granted bail, but said "he is going to have his hands full offering assistance to his partner, children and father".

The defence barrister concluded: "There is every incentive to make sure he is not going to be brought back into custody. If he puts a foot wrong he will be straight back to Maghaberry."

Judge Fowler noted Thompson's criminal record and said: "Unfortunately his promises that he will abide by all conditions are somewhat hollow bearing in mind the offences he has been charged with. I have absolutely no confidence he would abide by any conditions of court that would be imposed on him.

"He makes a case the police would have him arrested and brought back to custody immediately - but the police will have other things to do in the current situation rather than trying to enforce conditions on someone who I do not believe for one minute will abide these conditions.

"I am quite satisfied he is not a suitable candidate for bail."

Belfast Telegraph