Belfast Telegraph

Granddaughter of UDA terror chief Coulter charged with prison arson

By Staff Reporter

The granddaughter of a murdered loyalist terror chief has been charged with committing arson while in custody.

Stephanie McKeag, who did not appear at Newtownards Magistrates Court yesterday, is said to have started a fire on January 13, damaging lino flooring in the women's prison at Hydebank.

After a prosecuting lawyer confirmed that receipt of the summons had not been acknowledged, District Judge Mark Hamill adjourned the case.

McKeag (19) is the granddaughter of Jackie Coulter, who held a senior rank in the UDA before his murder in August 2000 by rivals in the UVF during a bloody feud.

The defendant, from Bandon Court in Belfast, was sentenced to three months' jail earlier this year for assaulting her mother, Tracey Coulter, and for possessing a weapon.

However, she walked free from Dungannon Magistrates Court after the sentencing hearing in March because she had already served the equivalent while on remand.

Sentencing McKeag, who held a knife to her mother's throat while threatening "you'll get this", District Judge John Meehan said that despite numerous conditional discharges being handed out to the teenager, she continued to refuse to change her behaviour.

"If someone was murdered following the litany of violent offences repeatedly dealt with by conditional discharge, questions would be asked," Judge Meehan added.

He also stressed that his "obligation is not just to the defendant's vulnerabilities, but to protect the public".

Earlier a prosecuting lawyer told the court how an 11-year-old child rang 999 on December 6 last year, telling police her mother was being held with a knife to her throat at their Dungannon home and identifying McKeag as the assailant.

Police officers who went to the scene were met by Ms Coulter's partner, who pointed to a room and said: "She's in there. She's put the knife down."

McKeag, the lawyer said, appeared to have calmed down and was arrested, but she refused to answer the majority of police questions, although she claimed she had picked up the knife in self-defence.

Ms Coulter told police that she and her daughter had argued and that McKeag had grabbed the knife and swung it at her.

The case was originally adjourned for pre-sentence reports, but the court heard that when McKeag attended an appointment with probation services she "became agitated and walked out".

Despite a vast record of violence and assaults, she claimed to have "little or no recollection of any previous offences".

McKeag's defence solicitor, who previously revealed she had grown up in the care system until she turned 18, said his client had addiction issues but was attempting to address them.

He also pointed out after being originally charged, the defendant was remanded in custody for a time until she managed to secure bail.

Sentencing McKeag, Judge Meehan told her she "needs to understand she goes to jail if she attacks people and puts others in fear". He added that if "she continues with her violence, this needs more than conditional discharges".

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