Belfast Telegraph

Man suspected of Christopher Meli murder involvement granted permission to work

By Ashleigh McDonald

A young man suspected of involvement in the December 2015 murder of Christopher Meli had his bail conditions varied on Thursday to allow him to work for a month.

Lee Smith was granted bail after spending time on remand for several offences arising from the murder of Mr Meli (20), who was beaten to death on December 12, 2015.

His body was found on a pathway in Twinbrook after he was attacked by a crowd of people - one of whom the Crown say was Smith.

The 21-year old, who is currently living at a bail address outside Belfast that cannot be published, was placed under strict conditions as part of his bail - including obeying a 7pm to 7am curfew.

He was back in court on Thursday, where his legal team asked that the curfew be removed to allow him to take up seasonal employment.

Belfast Crown Court heard Smith has been offered employment consisting of 12-hour shifts, from 10.15pm to 10.15am, from November 26 to December 24.

Smith's solicitor Mark Austin asked that the curfew condition be completely removed, as "to have him curfewed after completing a 12-hour shift isn't necessary."

Mr Austin argued that as his client signs with police four times a week as part of his bail, monitoring Smith "could be affectively carried out by these signing conditions."

A prosecutor told the court that the Crown objected to the curfew being removed, adding it was the Crown's view that Smith was part of a group which attacked Mr Meli, and has been returned for trial with others.

Telling Mr Justice Colton that Smith had a "lengthy history of bail applications," the prosecuting barrister said that since been granted bail, there had been a "plethora of incidents and breaches of bail that had to be dealt with by the court."

These breaches, the barrister revealed, included "all manner of issues" including being found drunk, being caught with drugs and incidents of trouble at his bail address.

Objecting to the curfew element of Smith's bail being removed entirely, the prosecutor said that while the Crown "didn't want to stand in the way of someone securing employment," the application was set against a backdrop of bail breaches.

The prosecutor did, however, say that if the court was minded to consider the application, any variation "should be limited."

Defence solicitor Mark Austin said that while it was accepted there have been "difficulties in the past", he questioned whether Smith should work a 12-hour shift then be "expected to observe a curfew."

Mr Austin pointed out that there have been no recent breaches of bail or further incidents linked to Smith.

After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Mr Justice Colton said: "It seems to me it is right that the court should vary the times of the applicant's bail to allow him to pick up the offer of employment."

The Judge said he would relax the times of curfew from 7pm to 9pm on the days when Smith is working. On the days he is not working, the curfew remains from 7pm to 7am.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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