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Drug charge Belfast man Lee Gardner under threat from dissidents, court told

A Belfast man facing charges over a cocaine seizure allegedly linked to the UVF is now under threat from dissident republicans, a court heard today.

Lee Gardner has moved to a new, undisclosed address due to the concerns for his safety.

Details emerged as a judge agreed to extend the 33-year-old's curfew in an attempt to provide greater protection.

Gardner was arrested with a co-accused after police recovered a consignment of cocaine allegedly discarded from a car in the city's Ravenhill area on March 23.

At the time the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force said the haul, with an estimated street value of £1,680, was linked to the East Belfast UVF.

Quantities of Diazepam, herbal cannabis and £2,500 in cash was also recovered in follow-up searches.

Gardner, previously of Lavinia Square, faces charges of possessing and being concerned in the supply of cocaine. He was granted bail in March, with conditions including a curfew and electronic tag.

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He applied to vary those terms at Belfast Magistrates' Court today due to the new threat against him.

District Judge George Conner was told that a warning message has been served on the accused.

"It seems his alleged involvement in this enterprise has brought him to the attention, for some reason, of dissident republicans," defence counsel Michael Boyd said.

"He is very much fearful for his safety."

Mr Boyd sought permission for his client to move between locations and to stay out later.

"It's a very serious threat... and this would allow greater elasticity in changing his routine, which is what he's been advised to do by police," the barrister added.

A detective responded, however, that Gardner already has more "flexibility" through his new accommodation.

District Judge George Conner refused to allow any further change of address or removal of the tag.

But extending Gardner's curfew, he said: "It's a reward for abiding by his terms."

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