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Judge slams coronavirus laws as pair back in court again for alleged restriction breaches

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A judge who criticised Stormont for making a "significant error" when drafting coronavirus laws has hit out again - as he has to keep releasing people when "there isn't a hope in hell" of them obeying regulations.  (stock photo)

A judge who criticised Stormont for making a "significant error" when drafting coronavirus laws has hit out again - as he has to keep releasing people when "there isn't a hope in hell" of them obeying regulations. (stock photo)

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A judge who criticised Stormont for making a "significant error" when drafting coronavirus laws has hit out again - as he has to keep releasing people when "there isn't a hope in hell" of them obeying regulations. (stock photo)

A judge who criticised Stormont for making a "significant error" when drafting coronavirus laws has hit out again - as he has to keep releasing people when "there isn't a hope in hell" of them obeying regulations.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan slammed the health laws as two people appeared back in court exactly a week since they were released on bail for other alleged coronavirus breaches.

Last week, Shania Devenney (21) of Kilmacormick Drive and Nathan Maguire (21) of Carnmore Lodge were arrested after police were alerted to anti-social behaviour. Both were charged with contravening restrictions and have had numerous fines handed out since last month.

"There isn't a hope in hell of them abiding by Covid regulations," the judge noted. Police have been dealing with a series of parties at Devenney's address and since the beginning of January there have been 16 incidents, including people being taken to hospital with suspected overdoses.

On January 18, officers discovered Devenney under the influence of drink and drugs. Maguire was found hiding behind a sofa, and said he had tested positive for Covid and was told to isolate - but had failed to do so.

Both have been issued with Covid penalty tickets in the past.

Five police officers had to self-isolate as a result of attending with Maguire. Devenney has been hosting regular large gatherings in her home, and has made it clear she has no intention of abiding by regulations.

Despite police objections last week, Mr Ranaghan said: "I cannot consider remanding in custody, as these matters are fine-only.

"The powers-that-be made a significant error when drafting legislation in making these fine-only offences.

"Had I the power to do so I would definitely be remanding these two in custody."

The pair were subsequently released with conditions. But on Tuesday, police again encountered them in apparent breach of regulations at Devenney's home.

A lawyer for Maguire said he had been instructed to plead guilty to both breaches and accepted there had been: "Blatant disregard for the regulations."

He was fined a total of £350.

Police opposed bail for Devenney, who did not indicate how she intends to plead.

An officer said: "She has stated she will not abide by the regulations and has proven that and also breached bail. She shows complete disregard for court conditions and the regulations."

Mr Ranaghan said: "I'm not sure police can oppose bail. We are all in a difficult world here."

Devenney's case was adjourned until next week.

Belfast Telegraph


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