Drug suspect bailed as judge calls his bluff over mobile PIN
A District Judge has told defendants accused of drugs offences that if they refuse to provide passcodes to mobile phones seized as part of PSNI investigations they will be refused court bail.
Barney McElholm issued the warning after a 22-year-old appeared before him yesterday at Londonderry Magistrates Court.
The accused is charged with supplying and being concerned in offering to supply cocaine, MDMA and cannabis between last March and his arrest last Saturday.
Following his arrest the defendant, who has been granted anonymity by the court, made admissions to the charges.
Addressing the case, the judge said: "It's quite simple - no PIN numbers, no bail."
The police witness told the court that the defendant was arrested after his details were found on a mobile phone belonging to another drugs suspect last March.
He said the defendant admitted supplying up to five people with drugs, but the police officer said he believed that number was considerably higher and the only way to determine if the defendant was a minor or major drugs dealer was for the officers to triage his mobile phone.
The officer said the defendant told the officers that the mobile phone seized from him belonged to another man who he had met in a bar and both accidentally left the bar with the other's mobile phone.
"We believe the mobile phone belongs to the defendant but he is withholding its PIN number," the officer added.
"He said during his interviews that he would rob drug dealers at knifepoint in order to get drugs because of his own addiction to them."
Mr McElholm said the first thing the defendant had to do if he wanted bail was to give the police the PIN number.
"I am dealing with this drugs problem every day on the ground," he said.
"It is very, very clear to me that if this problem is going to be combated then everything has to be done to ensure the police can carry out their investigations in a timely and expeditious manner.
"So let me repeat, no PIN number, no bail."
Mr McElholm continued: "I do not believe for one second the nonsense he has told the police. I would give him bail now if he gives the PIN number to the police.
"Until he gives over the PIN number and stops telling ridiculous stories he is not getting bail. It could turn out he is a serious dealer and the fact that he is not handing over the PIN number raises that spectre considerably."
The defendant was subsequently remanded in custody until November 14.
However, several minutes later the defendant was recalled from the cells at the request of his solicitor Seamus Quigley and brought back before Mr McElholm.
Mr Quigley explained: "Immediately after he was remanded in custody he made contact with me through the Prison Service staff and the correct PIN number has now been handed over to the police.
"They have confirmed to me that they have now gotten access to the mobile phone. I would therefore ask the court to consider releasing him on bail."
The judge then released the defendant on his own bail of £750 to appear in court again on November 28.
As part of his bail conditions the defendant is banned from accessing any internet enabled device and banned from accessing any social media platform. He has also been ordered to immediately seek counselling in relation to his drugs addiction.
Mr McElholm further ordered the defendant to report twice weekly to police, to observe a curfew and to agree to undergo any field impairment test when asked to do so at the request of the police.