Drugs charge accused ordered to remain in custody
A High Court judge opted to "err on the side of caution" during a bail application yesterday in a case where cocaine was allegedly being produced on an industrial scale.
Mr Justice Horner adjourned the hearing until September 5 to allow for analysis of mobile phones to be completed which the court heard will either confirm or deny claims made by a man facing drugs charges.
During a bail application made on behalf of Sean Rooney (39), it emerged that police believe the north Belfast man is involved in the drugs trade and have opposed his release.
Rooney, from Oceanic Avenue, was one of three men arrested in a car on the M2 on July 26.
The Vauxhall, driven by Rooney, was stopped at the Fortwilliam roundabout, and when the car was searched a small amount of cocaine was located, along with seven other opium-based painkillers and five mobile phones.
Also searched were the addresses linked to the three occupants, as well as a lock-up at an industrial unit in Ballymena, which contained further bags of suspected high-purity cocaine.
Crown prosecutor Mark Farrell said police believe the lock-up was "being used to produce cocaine on an industrial scale".
Outlining objections to Rooney's release, Mr Farrell said that at the time of his arrest he had a pending drugs case for which he was on bail and police had concerns he is involved in the drugs trade. The prosecutor also expressed police concerns that Rooney may flee if granted bail, as he has links in the Republic. Defence barrister Joel Lindsay told Mr Justice Horner that a co-accused of Rooney's has already accepted the drugs found in the lock-up were his and said it was Rooney's case that as he was a welder, he sometimes worked in the lock-up.
Mr Justice Horner spoke of a potential breach of previous bail by Rooney, if he has "involved himself with drugs."
If this was the case, the judge said "the court could have little confidence he could adhere to conditions in the future".
Saying the mobile phone analysis will "either confirm or contradict" Rooney's version of events, Mr Justice Horner said he would "err on the side of caution" and "wait for that investigation to be carried out" before deciding whether or not to grant bail.