Belfast Telegraph

Latest bail bid by Twinbrook murder accused rejected

Breaches: Lee Smyth
Breaches: Lee Smyth

By Ashleigh McDonald

A Belfast man currently awaiting trial for the killing of Christopher Meli was refused bail yesterday due to concerns "he cannot or will not" abide by any conditions imposed.

Lee Smyth is due to stand trial later this year on offences arising from the murder of west Belfast father of one Christopher Meli.

Mr Meli was beaten to death in the Glasvey Close area of Twinbrook, on the outskirts of west Belfast, in December 2015.

At the time, police believed up to 20 young people were involved in a number of violent incidents that culminated in his death.

Smyth and several co-accused have been returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court in October, and yesterday the 22-year-old made a fresh application for bail from HMP Maghaberry.

However, due to what the Crown called a "lengthy back history" of Smyth being granted bail then breaching his conditions "on multiple occasions", the application was opposed by the prosecution.

Tom MacCreanor, the barrister representing Smyth, made the application to Mr Justice Colton - and said that while it was acknowledged there had been "difficulties" with bail in the past, he said these were linked to a previous bail address allocated to Smyth.

Mr MacCreanor said Smyth was returned to custody four months ago, but asked that he be released and bailed to an address which was not disclosed in court, but which is close to where Mr Meli was killed.

The defence barrister said that whilst on bail there had been no "chance encounters" or "accidental contact" with witnesses,and added the new address put forward would be "more appropriate for him to reside".

Mr MacCreanor concluded his application by saying there was "no motivation" on Smyth's part to interfere with the investigation or pending trial.

Objecting to Smyth being granted bail, a Crown prosecutor said the proposed address was unsuitable as it was "around 1.1 miles" from the murder scene, and spoke of "difficulties in the local community" that have arisen since Mr Meli's death.

The prosecutor said Smyth had breached conditions of bail "on multiple occasions", adding: "The issue of re-offending is the core of the court's consideration.

"Quite simply, he has displayed that he either cannot or will not comply with conditions set by the court... and the Crown has no confidence he will abide by any conditions, given the history of bail."

The prosecutor also spoke of issues at Smyth's previous bail address, telling the court: "He certainly seems to attract trouble to his door."

The Crown barrister also voiced concerns about children living at the proposed new address.

After hearing from both the Crown and defence, Mr Justice Colton said he was "very familiar with the background".

Noting the past breaches, the judge said he was not satisfied a change of address would make much difference.

Mr Justice Colton also noted that he was not satisfied Smyth would comply with bail conditions, and raised concerns about re-offending.

"This application is refused," he told the court.

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