A man charged in connection with the theft of Noah Donohoe’s laptop was attacked in custody, a court has heard.
Daryl Paul , who was charged with the theft of the computer on June 21, 2020, did not appear before Belfast Magistrates Court because he is “in the Covid suite” according to his solicitor.
Refusing to release him on bail, District Judge Peter Magill referred to his “frankly appalling record for someone aged 34”.
Mr Magill also said he wanted to put on record that there was “no suspicion that he had any contact directly with Noah Donohoe”.
"The difficulty in respect of bail in this case is the fact that this man has a frankly appalling record for someone aged 34,” said Mr Magill.
“He’s 194 prior convictions – massive numbers of them for theft and dishonesty.”
Noah Donohoe went missing in north Belfast back in June sparking a massive, widespread hunt involving much of the community.
The lifeless body of the tragic 14-year-old was later found in a storm drain six days later.
The court heard that the defendant said he’d found the rucksack “perched up against a wall”.
Police believe it was discarded by Noah and that there was no contact between the defendant and the schoolboy.
Detectives were still searching for the missing teenager when the bag, containing school books with his name on them, were recovered.
The court was also told that when police located the defendant in the street and he “tried to run”.
Mr Paul’s solicitor Una Conway that “this offence taken at its height is theft of the rucksack”.
But Mr Magill replied that was the “theft of not just any rucksack".
“It’s theft of the rucksack of a young boy who was missing and who the whole populace of Northern Ireland knew was missing and was being actively sought,” he said.
“And this man had the boy’s rucksack, the boy’s laptop and the boy’s school books, which had his name and were stamped from his school.
“And descriptions were out in the media about all of these things being sought so that’s the circumstances that make this particularly unpleasant.”
Ms Conway said her client of 15 years had been attacked due to media reports.
“This matter has been in the media repeatedly and that has had a significant impact on Mr Paul whilst in custody and he has been the victim of an attack as a result of this because of the speculation in the media with regards to his involvement,” she said.
Mr Magill said he was refusing bail “for fear of further offences and the fact that I don’t think he’ll turn up”.
“The difficulty in respect of bail in this case is the fact that this man has a frankly appalling record for someone aged 34.
“He’s 194 prior convictions – massive numbers of them for theft and dishonesty.
“That in and of itself would give me pause but what puts this over the edge is that he attempted to evade arrest by police and covered his face and tried to run away.
“Not only am I afraid of further offences, I am afraid that he will simply not turn up. So he can go to the High Court. Bail is refused.
“I will put the matter to the video link on December 10.”
The District Judge added: “While I accept that this man clearly has health issues they have not been addressed and frankly he is more likely to be safer in prison as far as health is concerned than at liberty considering his alcohol and drug dependencies which can only exacerbate his health.”
Ms Conway asked the judge to consider imposing a reporting restriction because “this story has encouraged speculation about Mr Paul that has already put his safety in jeopardy in prison.
“I put these facts clearly on the record in terms of there is no suspicion he had any contact directly with Noah Donohoe.” said Mr Magill.
“He says he found that backpack and there is nothing to indicate otherwise.
“I do not think that a reporting restriction is appropriate at all.
“Apart from anything else, there is a greater public interest but I am not so persuaded that this man is in danger.
“At the moment, as of my direction, he is in custody where I fully expect he will be protected.”